Friday, March 15, 2013

The Soviet Goal in the Cold War

The Soviet Goal in the Cold War

Tibor R. Machan

          For a very long time after I left communist Hungary I have been witnessing how numerous Western “Sovietologists” have been trying to clear the USSR of any responsibility for imperialism and, thus, the Cold War.  In the April 2013 issue of Harper’s magazine one James Leigh chimes in with a letter to the editor in which he raises the questions of “whether Stalinist policies were prima facie evidence of a Soviet desire for world domination.” He claims that the demonstrable brutality of Stalin’s regime gives no evidence of a Soviet policy of expansionism.  Rather America’s nuclear program is supposed to have been the “proximate cause” of the Soviet Union’s imperialist attitudes and policies.

          This is a position I have encountered even from stalwart libertarians, such as the late Murray N. Rothbard.  He, too, if memory serves me right, blamed mainly the American government for pushing the USSR toward imperialism.  In other words, the Soviet Union, however vicious, wasn’t aiming to rule the world and the only thing that made it appear so is that America was provoking the Ruskies to be fiercely defensive.

          I have always been curious how those who were blaming the Americans for being the aggressors in the Cold War managed to ignore a certain element of Marxian ideology and geopolitics.  Given that Marx and his followers in the USSR were advocates and promoters of international communism (socialism), their intention to spread Soviet domination across the globe is difficult to deny and natural to fathom.  

          Marx himself argued, back in the 1880s, that the movement toward a communist future across the world had to involved spreading out the borders of socialist Russia.  Marx explained: “If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolu­tion in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting-point for a communist development.” [Karl Marx, Selected Writings (Oxford UP, 1977), ed., D. McLennan] Soviet expansionism, the “desire for world domination,’ was consistent with this Marxist communist idea: the Soviet Union would be a “signal for a proletarian revolution in the West.”

          There are those Sovietologists and scholars of the Cold War who would ignore Marxian ideology as they propose to understand the behavior of the USSR. For them it was a mere epiphenomenon, not a guiding doctrine. Yet that ideology held that capitalism must necessarily be imperialistic so as to create foreign markets for capitalist nations.  And the military of such nations were supposed to be bent on securing those markets coercively, so socialist countries such as the USSR needed to prepare for this. Ergo, the USSR must achieve global dominance lest capitalist nations do so.

          It is true that capitalists want to reach foreign markets but by all accounts they would want to do this peacefully, through trade instead of military conquest. The idea that the USSR and not the USA was aiming for world dominance by military and political/diplomatic means is then a very plausible supposition.  By all reasonable accounts that is just what transpired during the Cold War until the USSR fell.  

           Which doesn’t mean that the Western governments were in no way responsible for a good deal of the malfeasance during the Cold War.  But arguably the Soviets had an official state ideology that rationalized aggressive expansionism and imperialism far more readily than what guided diplomacy and military policy for the Western powers.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Few Choice Quotes to Consider

A Few Choice Quotes to consider!*

Bannister on Theories:
“... the psychologist cannot present a picture of man which patently contradicts his behavior in presenting that picture.”  From Borger & Cioffi/Bannister, eds., Explanation in the Behavioural Sciences (Cambridge UP, 1970), p.  417.

Aristotle on Skepticism:
“It is in the highest degree evident that neither any one of those who maintain this view nor any one else is really in this position. For why does a man walk to Megara and not stay at home, when he thinks he ought to be walking there? Why does he not walk early some morning into a well or over a precipice, if one happens to be in his way? Why do we observe him guarding against this, evidently because he does not think that falling in is alike good and not good? Evidently, then, he judges one thing to be better and another worse.” Metaphysics 1006b (IV, iv, 40)

Coase on economic man:
“There is no reason to suppose that most human beings are engaged in maximizing anything unless it be unhappiness, and even this with incomplete success” (Ronald Coase, The Firm, the Market, and the Law, U of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 4.

Salzman on Comparative Political Economy:
"’Well . . . the world is basically divided into two kinds of countries—communist countries and capitalist countries.  A capitalist country is a place where people own things privately and can become more wealthy than other people.  They use money to get whatever they want, and can oppress poor people.  A communist country is a place where the government owns everything.  That way, everyone is equal, and no one can be oppressed.  Without money, people share willingly with each other and help each other rather than just helping themselves.  Everyone works for the good of the people, not just for personal gain.’ Colonel Sun thought about this for a moment, then burst into derisive laughter.  ‘The capitalists sound pretty normal,’ he observed, ‘but that communist arrangement sounds like a lot of crap to me.’" [The Laughing Sutra, p. 58]

There is a story that Communism, Capitalism, and Socialism decided to have lunch together one day. Communism and Capitalism were on time, but Socialism arrived late.  He said, "I'm sorry I am late, but I had to queue up to buy some sausage.  Communism said, "What's a sausage?," and Capitalism said "What's a queue?" [The Laughing Sutra, p. 210]

Quine on Cultural Relativism:
Truth, says the cultural relativist, is culture-bound.  But if it were, then he, within his own culture, ought to see his own culture-bound truth as absolute.  He cannot proclaim cultural relativism without rising above it, and he cannot rise above it without giving it up. [Willard Van Orman Quine, “On empirically equivalent systems of the world,” Erkenntnis, Vol. 9 (1975), pp. 327-8 (pp. 313-28).]

Roger Sperry on Reductionism:
We no longer seek ultimate nature of reality within the smallest physical elements, nor in their innermost essence.  Instead the search is redirected to focus primarily on the patterning of the elements, on their differential pacing and timing and the progressive compounding of patterns of patterns, and on their evolving nature and complexity. (American Psychologist, Vol. 50, No. 7, 506)

John O’Brien:
“The desire of one man to live on the fruits of another’s labor is the original sin of the world.” [George Seldes, ed., The Great Thoughts (Ballentine Books, 19850, p. 314]

Rand on Human Nature:
“Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men: living in a human society is his proper way of life – but only on certain conditions.  Man is not a lone wolf and he is not a social animal.  He is a contractual animal.  He has to plan his life long-range, make his own choices, and deal with other men by voluntary agreement (and he has to be able to rely on their observance of the agreement they entered).” [“A Nation’s Unity,” Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. II, 2, p. 3.]

Alexis de Tocqueville on business:
“The transactions of business opened a new road to power, and the financier rose to a station of political influence in which he was at once flattered and despised.” [Democracy in America, p. xxxvi]

Jostein Gaarner on the supernatural:
“So you don’t believe in anything supernatural then.”
“We’ve already talked about that.  Even the term ‘supernatural’ is a curious one.  No, I suppose I believe that there is only one nature.  But that, on the other hand, is absolutely astonishing.” (Sophie’s World, p. 360)

Arthur Miller on salesmen:
His was a salesman’s profession, if one may describe such dignified slavery as a profession…(“In Memoriam,” The New Yorker, December 25, 1995 & January 1, 1996)

Business Besmirched:
In 1769 [Benjamin] Franklin had written to his friend Henry Home, Lord Cames, the Scottish jurist and philosopher: `There seems to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth.  The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors.  This is robbery.  The second is by commerce, which is generally cheating.  The third by agriculture, the only honest way....'"[from Forest MacDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum]

*From my personal collection