This “Bulletin” editorial originally appeared in the July 19, 1991 issue.
Never in the annals of history has ahead of state groveled so much with so little to show for it as Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in his appearance before the Group of Seven major imperialist powers.
On the eve of his trip to the London summit conference, Gorbachev dismissed as “just not serious” those predicting that he was “going to crawl on his knees and plead for assistance from” the leaders of world imperialism. Instead, he insisted, what he was seeking was “the organic integration of the Soviet Union into the world economy.”
Whether standing or crawling, Gorbachev’s every move provoked open derision from the imperialist leaders and literally gales of laughter from the assembled jackals of the world capitalist media.
It was not just the unseemly begging, but the abject stupidity of the entire enterprise. The very conception that world imperialism would be persuaded to provide handouts to the USSR for the purpose of saving the Soviet economy and turning it into another major capitalist power, competing for its share of the ever more divided world market, betrays the appalling ignorance and petty-bourgeois illusions of the Stalinist bureaucracy headed by Gorbachev.
The imperialist heads of state rebuffed Gorbachev’s pleas, declaring that his bureaucracy had not gone “far enough” in dismantling the socialized property relations and planned economy established by the 1917 October Revolution. Gorbachev’s humiliating speeches renouncing this revolution and soliciting imperialist aid in carrying out the capitalist transformation of the Soviet economy did not impress them whatsoever.
Imperialism is not interested in saving the Soviet Union, but in destroying it. This is more true today than at any time in the last 74 years. It has sought to utilize Gorbachev and his program of perestroika as a means of intensifying its economic warfare against the USSR under conditions in which the old mechanisms of self-defense have been systematically dismantled by the ruling bureaucracy. It has succeeded through Gorbachev in tearing down virtually all restrictions on the penetration of foreign capital. Recently the bureaucracy pushed through legislation allowing the 100 percent ownership of Soviet enterprises by imperialist multinationals.
But if Gorbachev is unable to continue with this program and is toppled, the imperialists will discard him like a squeezed lemon. They are already seeking to utilize right-wing elements like Yeltsin and the bourgeois nationalists in the republics as an alternative “fifth column” within the Soviet Union.
The bureaucracy’s pursuit of a capitalist restorationist program over the past six years has wreaked economic havoc of staggering proportions. According to some estimates, the rate of decline in industrial production is approaching 30 percent annually and the rate of inflation, 100 percent. The aim of the imperialists is not to stem this hemorrhaging of the Soviet economy, but to continue and intensify it.
They are determined to carry out in the Soviet Union the same essential policy being pursued by German imperialism since its takeover of East Germany. There, virtually every industrial enterprise is being systematically shut down and liquidated. All those more advanced enterprises which could serve as a potential source of competition with German capitalist corporations have been the first on the chopping block. In the USSR, the imperialists are demanding nothing less than the economic equivalent of Operation Barbarossa. What the Nazi armies were unable to achieve in four years of total war in the 1940s, imperialism now seeks to complete through the open collaboration of their out-and-out agents in the Kremlin bureaucracy.
The program which imperialism demands for the USSR includes the closing down of the vast bulk of the state-owned enterprises, the complete destruction of whatever remains of economic planning and the sell-off of the country’s assets at fire-sale prices to the imperialist banks and foreign multinationals.
This economic transformation of the USSR entails social consequences of horrific dimensions. The rationalization of industry would create massive unemployment and the pauperization of the majority of the Soviet population. State-run social programs would simply be eliminated.
Gorbachev’s delusion that the imperialists have some interest in saving Soviet industry and turning it into a new source of competition on the world market would be laughable if his economic policies had not already had such tragic consequences for the Soviet working class.
In their attempt to persuade the imperialists that they should come to the Kremlin’s aid, the Soviet bureaucrats have warned darkly of the imminent danger of a “social uprising” which would overturn the program of capitalist restoration.
The whole bureaucracy, from those labeled “hard-liners” to the so-called reformers, is driven by two things: its obsessive hatred and fear of the Soviet working class and its own greed and lust for power and privileges. In Gorbachev’s mission to London, the bureaucracy hoped that it could enlist imperialist support to stave off a revolutionary upheaval by the Soviet workers and to assure their own personal futures as capitalist owners and local agents for the multinationals.
But when the imperialists say that Gorbachev has not “gone far enough,” they are demanding not just that he renounce the program of the October Revolution and swear his devotion to capitalism, as he has done, but that he present a program for wiping out the material legacy of October—Soviet industry and the Soviet working class itself.
When Gorbachev talks about the “organic integration” of the USSR into the world economy, it should be pointed out that a number of the more prominent capitalist commentators have made the case that the counterrevolutionary transformation of the USSR should conclude with turning the country into a nonindustrial society, providing cheap agricultural produce to the imperialist centers.
For imperialism the “integration” of the USSR means its destruction as a major industrial power and making it a source of superexploited labor and raw materials for foreign capitalist corporations. They approach the Soviet question much as the Romans who, when they conquered Carthage, sowed the land with salt.
Both the imperialists and the Moscow bureaucracy know that the chief obstacle to their drive to carry out the destruction of the gains of October is the resistance of the Soviet working class. Soviet workers now face a menace no less deadly than that of 50 years ago, when Hitler’s armies began a slaughter which ultimately claimed the lives of 20 million. The restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union will only be consummated by means of a new bloodbath and would hasten the eruption of a third world war between the rival imperialists fighting over the spoils.
The fate of the Soviet Union depends, in the final analysis, on the revolutionary mobilization of the Soviet and the international working class. The struggle of the Soviet workers to overthrow the bureaucracy and its policy of capitalist restoration by means of a political revolution must be consciously united with that of the international working class against the imperialist bourgeoisie as component parts of the world socialist revolution. This requires the building of the Soviet section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.