The Demise of the USSR

Soviet SS-21 short range missile, aimed at Western Europe and the People’s Republic of China starting in 1978…

Some time ago i posted a poll, on the effect the demise of the Soviet Union had on revolutionaries in the imperialist countries and in the Third World, the options being Easier, Harder, Bit of Both, or Neither. (An additional joke “The Soviet Union was never defeated” appeared in the list for the imperialist countries, and got four votes.) Obviously, only a very few people answer these little polls i put up, so the results are not really the point, but they do provide a way to discuss a question.


EASIER: Only four people thought that the demise of the Soviet Union made things unambiguously easier for people in the imperialist countries, nobody thought it had this effect for comrades in the Third World.

This was in line with my first expectations, the line being that in the imperialist countries the Soviet Union was such a negative example of what communism or socialism could look like – a despotic, highly stratified class society where people lived hard lives with few freedoms – that it helped to keep people hostile to the left. Whereas in the Third World this kind of negative example was assumed to have less weight, and the Soviet Union provided material aid to anti-imperialist insurgencies and regimes like Cuba and Nicaragua.

Nevertheless, i can’t help but suspect that this appraisal of the USSR’s effect on struggles in the Third World misses some nuances. While the Soviet Union did provide aid to almost any and every anti-American insurgency during certain periods, it must be remembered that it also supported anti-communist insurgents and regimes when these were seen as being the best bet to counter the west. One of these days i’d like to look into this more…

HARDER: Six people thought that the demise of the USSR made things harder on revs in the imperialist countries, twelve people thought it made things harder on people ion the Third World.

i’m not sure why these twelve think things got harder in the imperialist countries for revolutionaries. The Soviet Union provided neither aid nor effective leadership, and (through the Communist Parties) often sabotaged and deradicalized struggles here. On the other hand, despite its obvious shortcomings, when the USSR fell apart and the u.s. emerged as the “winner”, there was a sense of euphoria on the right and demoralization on the left, not because people had liked the “real existing socialism” of the USSR but rather because it was interpreted as a sign of American strength, and spun as a personal victory for such reactionaries as Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.

As for making things harder for people in the Third World struggling against imperialism, the argument is more obvious. As mentioned above, the Soviet Union had provided material aid, including military aid, to insurgencies and to anti-imperialist regimes like Cuba.

BIT OF BOTH & NONE: Eight people thought the demise of the USSR had mixed results on revs in the imperialist countries, five people thought it had mixed results in the Third World. At the same time, only two people thought it had no effect in either.

And that’s that for that poll…


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