Decline and demise of Soviet Union
Posted by Taimur Rahman on August 3, 2006
I want to write a short critique of your chapter on the “Decline and
demise of Soviet Union”. I think there are a number of historical
and analytical errors in your otherwise interesting analysis.
1) Karl Marx was not driven out of Germany on account of the
discrimination practiced against Jews in Germany. He had to leave
Germany for Paris on account of the conditions created after the
suppression of the radical paper Rheinische Zeitung of which he was
2) You wrote that Marx’s ideas found their first success in the
developed industrial countries like Britain, Germany and France
by “superficial logic”. Why was the logic superficial? It would
not be surprising to find that the ideas of the emancipation of the
proletariat would find currency in countries where there was a well-
3) The Russian Revolution occurred mainly because of the
contradictions created by the imperialist war but without the
Bolshevik party the Russian Revolution would not have proceeded
beyond the bourgeois-democratic stage.
4) The statement that “Only the British channel and lack of
confidence among Hitler’s cohorts saved Britain” is, in my opinion,
historically incorrect. What saved Britain was Hitler’s surprise
attack on the Soviet Union and the subsequent involvement of the
latter in the war.
5) The statement “Lack of confidence again kept the Japanese
from marching into India” is not borne by historical analysis. The
Japanese were brimming with confidence (as were the Germans). Not
only was the British India army a more formidable enemy than the
Japanese had faced so far, the terrain from Burma towards India was
unsuited to the kind of assault needed to take India and there was
also the problem of consolidating rule in the areas occupied
(especially China where the Communists organized extremely effective
resistance against the Japanese).
6) “The British, more aware of reality on ground had initiated
scorched earth policy in Bengal.” I am not aware of any such policy.
7) “Russia had suffered the depredations of Stalin”. What you
call depredations was in fact necessary campaign to root out Nazi
infiltrators in the Red Army, State and Party. Without this purge
of fifth columnists, it would not have been possible for the Soviet
Union to sustain the kind of losses it did without capitulating.
8) “Soviet army lacked arms, leadership and morale.” On the
contrary, the morale of the Soviet Union and army was extremely high
mainly as a result of the awesome success of economic reconstruction
under the five year plans. The Red Army was one of the largest and
best equipped armies in the world (although still technologically
inferior to the Germans)
9) “Hitler was again not fully cognizant of the parlous state
of workers paradise.” Again historical evidence suggests the
opposite. It was Hitler’s under-estimation of the Red Army and
Soviet system that convinced him to attack the Soviet Union even
when the battle for Britain was not over. He was of the view that
the Soviet Union would be destroyed in a matter of weeks. He was
quoted as saying “You have only to kick in the door and the whole
[Soviet] edifice will come crashing down”.
10) “He [Hitler] was conned into signing a pact with the
country”. I think it was more a question of gaining the necessary
time to deal with the Western front before embarking on the East for
11) “That gave critical respite to Soviet rulers. Internecine
fratricide was abandoned for the duration. Experience military
officers, engineers and scientists were released from penal colonies
and asked to serve the national interest. They readily agreed, to
escape from inhuman condition of their incarceration or for love of
the nation, it is difficult to say. one can not say. But put in an
upper human effort, they did.” To ascribe the success of the Soviet
Union’s war efforts on those people who were released from penal
colonies is about as intelligent as suggesting that the German
Fascists were victorious because of German communists. The respite
was crucial because it gave the Reds more time to organize their
defenses. But the final victory was due to the superiority of the
Socialist system built under the leadership of Stalin from the 1920s
12) “CPI had to had to toe the soviet line and tone down its
criticism of fascism.” This is a complete fabrication. Please
provide evidence that the Comintern or the CPSU asked the CPI to
tone down criticism of fascism.
13) “Idealists in the party found it hard to swallow the line,
but the bosses salved their conscience by telling themselves and
others that if Soviet Union were overwhelmed, the historic process
would be set back by scores of years. Little damage was done to
a) Again this is a complete concoction.
b) The use of the word “bosses” for the revolutionaries of the
1930s and 1940s is strikes me as totally misplaced given the
sacrifices of the these great revolutionaries. Bosses don’t risk
exile, jail, and the gallows for “conspiracies against the British
Empire” Ehtisham sahib.
c) Please note that when the Soviet Union was
finally “overwhelmed” the historical process WAS set back by scores
of years? Perhaps the revolutionaries of the 1930s demonstrated
more common sense than we do today.
14) “My uncle who was a student in Lucknow university and an
ardent party worker told me that it was a real struggle to keep
party workers from celebrating a day of deliverance along with the
ML.” Obviously, the party leadership had more sense than the rank
and file workers of the party.
15) “They could tell the public that British and Indian
capitalists had a disagreement in distribution of loot.” I doubt
that the statements of the CPI confirm this.
16) “The public sympathized with Hitler. He was fighting a
common enemy.” There is no doubt that a substantial segment of the
Indian population was taken in by the Nazi propaganda but it would
be incorrect to think that this view represented “the public” given
that the largest parties of India were all against Hitler (Congress,
CPI, and Muslim League).
17) “The communist regime in Soviet Union survived and thrived
in spite of what they
had done to themselves.” Perhaps the Soviet Union thrived exactly
because of what they had done to themselves (and that isn’t what you
think it is).
18) “Though expected, the onslaught threw CPI into a quandary.
The hitherto inter-imperialist war had to be declared people’s war
over night. It would be a comfortable somersault but for Indian
public opinion, which was strongly anti-British and acting on the
reasonable dictum that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, they rooted
a) Given the Leninist position that the nature of a war is
determined by the classes engaged in the conflict, it comes as no
surprise that the world communist movement would reassess the nature
of the war once the Soviet Union was attacked. In doing so, this was
not merely a exercise in changing labels. The attack on the Soviet
Union involved an entirely new state, society and political movement
in the conflict. It meant that along with the inter-imperialist
war, a new war of liberation (in addition to the war of liberation
already underway by colonies of Germany) emerged on the world
horizon: The war of liberation of the Soviet Union.
b) I have already demonstrated that whereas a section of the
public certainly empathized with Hitler, this was hardly
representative of “the public” as a whole.
19) I have no empathy for fascist sympathizers like Josh
20) “But CPI was duty bound to do so [declare the war of the
Soviet Union a Peoples War].” The CPI was not merely “duty bound”
but deeply stirred by the attack on the Soviet Union and
condemnations of “nationalists, religious people, liberals,
rightists and non-communist left” or the reconciliatory position of
Britain are completely irrelevant. The CPI took the correct decision
of rising to the defense of the Soviet Union.
21) “Faiz, a luminary of the left joined the army and went to
work for All India Radio. My uncle told me that many of his rivals
gleefully called him “Munafiq”, roughly double-dealer.” His critics
obviously had a very poor understanding of the need to defend the
22) “The [Muslim League] demand for partition of India could no
longer be brushed aside. CPI naturally opposed it. It had reckoned
with out the Supremo- Stalin. He decided that all ethnic
nationalities should have a right to self-determination. He agreed
with Jinnah. No one in CPI or for that matter any communist any
where dare ask him about the fate of nationalities in soviet Union
whom he had sent in their hundreds of thousands to freeze in
Siberia rather than give them the right to self determination. CPI
had, Willy nilly, to follow the directive.”
a) The CPI never “opposed” the right of nations to self-
determination. It just had no concept in the early period about the
national question. They developed their position in response to the
rising demand of Muslim separatism.
b) Stalin did not agree with Jinnah. Stalin agreed that the
international solidarity of the working class could not be brought
about without recognizing the right of all nations to self-
determination. A view that was codified in the constitution of the
c) Not only had the nations within the Soviet Union made an
enormous historical advance in relation to their position under the
Tsar, the Soviet Union was one of the few countries of the world
that constitutionally upheld the right of nations to self-
d) Deportations occurred during World War II for military
reasons. They had nothing to do with undermining the national
integrity or autonomy of nations within the Soviet Union.
23) “I some times wonder if Stalin did it deliberately to
sabotage the international
communist movement, as some suspect Gorbachev of doing it in
eighties.” I sometimes wonder how better the international
communist movement would have been if we didn’t have to listen to
24) “Sajjad Zaheer permitted the party to get embroiled in a
half-baked military conspiracy with disastrous consequences for
progressive movement in the country.”
a) This entire analysis of the Pindi conspiracy case is
completely incorrect. The facts are that the “conspiracy” was
rejected mainly by the Communist Party (as Sibte Hasan and so many
others have pointed out repeatedly).
b) This incident cannot be viewed outside the context of the
Cold War and US foreign policy under John Foster Dulles. The facts
are that all US allies undertook a purge of communists within their
countries during this period. Pakistan was no exception.
25) Hasan Nasir “could, however, not to cleanse the organization
high-ranking officials in the party who were also highly paid agents
of the GOP.” Accusations without proof are considered slanders Mr.
26) “An ostensibly ideological, in actuality a struggle for the
slot of the head of international communist movement was brewing
between his successors and The Chinese party led by Mao. That was to
split the ranks of communist parties down the middle. Parties all
over the world struggled with the schism. Hasan Nasir kept CPP
a) The Sino-Soviet split was over real issues. Mao and Hoxha
were completely willing to accept the leadership of the CPSU. They
were not ready to accept the views that were being smuggled into the
communist movement under the guise of de-Stalinization.
b) Hasan Nasir was murdered (1960) before the Sino-Soviet came
to the attention of the international communist movement (1962-63).
27) “During my last visit to Pakistan in 2005, I inquired of a
few friends about progressive movement in the country. He looked at
me hard, trying to divine if I was being funny. Convinced that I was
in earnest, he told me that at the last count there were eleven
factions of NSF, and the country sported as many as thirty-one
communist parties. Few had more than three members.”
a) The information provided by your friend is completely
inaccurate. In Pakistan we are in the habit of counting everyone
who has ever been part of the communist movement as a communist.
People even think that the National Workers Party is a communist
party simply because Abid Hasan Minto was once a member of the
Communist Party of Pakistan. In fact, one merely has to pick up the
manifesto of this party to discover its communist credentials.
28) “It is an idle thought, but I cannot help speculating on the
fate of the party if Trotsky had come out on top in his struggle
a) You are correct. The thought is completely idle. I often
wonder how the fate of the world communist movement might have been
different if the renegade Khruschev did not take power. If Molotov
had defeated him in the 1957 meeting of the Central Committee.
Nonetheless, here is my speculation.
b) Given Trotsky’s views on the peasantry it would have cause a
rupture of the worker-peasant alliance.
c) Given Trotsky’s views on the militarization of Trade Unions,
it would have resulted in a loss of support among the working class.
d) Given Trotsky’s views on the inability to build socialism In
Russia in the absence of a revolution in Europe it would have led to
e) Given the tendency of Trotsky to think that the revolution
could be exported to Europe on the basis of bayonets, the Soviet
Union would have launched a ridiculous adventure against European
f) Given the collaboration of certain Trotskyists with Nazism,
the Soviet Union would have lost the Second World War (if it had
survived till that point).
29) The opportunist policies undertaken by the Khrushchev under
the title of “de-Stalinisation” were responsible for the eventual
destruction of the Soviet Union.
30) Afghanistan: the Soviet Union did not collapse because of
Afghanistan. It collapsed because the anti-Stalin faction of the
CPSU undertook a deliberate program of capitalist restoration under
the title of Glostnost and Perestroika.
31) “Gorbachev emerged from the ashes and skillfully deployed
his unmatched diplomatic skills to keep the edifice on its feet. But
the dispensation he was presiding over was hollow. It collapsed at
the first touch of whirlwind.” Ever wonder why it never did that
when it was invaded by the Nazi troops? Perhaps the reason why it
became “hollow” had to do with the fact that the anti-Stalin faction
had ruled the Soviet Union since 1956.
32) “Chinese party, which had undergone and survived convulsions
of Cultural Revolution, post-Mao revisionism was finally taken over
by reactionaries. The country is ruled by a party, which in its
control of public and private life rivals Hitler’s Nazi party. They
practice Capitalist mode of production, and communist intrusion into
daily life. Apparent survivors include North Korea, which is more
like the dragon lizard, and Vietnam, which has followed the Chinese
a) Your comparison of the Communist Party of China, Communist
Party of Vietnam and Workers Party of Korea to the Nazi party is the
best evidence one can provide of the complete ignorance of your
understanding of the contradictions facing the world today.
In sum Mr. Ehtisham, your analysis leaves much to be desired.
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