This is a chapter from the book:
The Victory of Morality over Socialism
Chapter 2. Promoting socialism on the imperialist market
With its planned economy the CPSU basically put its resources and people out of the reach of the business interests of foreign capital. Conversely, the state-owned firms are also free from any business interest in the resources, people, goods and markets of other states. And nevertheless the Party has involved itself more and more in the world market, run up debts and now even invites capitalists to enter into joint ventures with socialist firms.
On the one hand, the CPSU cares so little about economic affairs in foreign countries that it is not about to bother any capitalist nation by “exporting revolution.” On the other hand, it finds the fruits of capitalist exploitation elsewhere so irresistible that it will set virtually no limits on exportation and importation. Foreign exploiters suit them fine as trading partners.
That is what this Party considers the proper form for a “competition of the systems,” in which it does not even intend to really outdo capitalism. It takes part in the world market as if this, of all things, were the way for the criteria and principles of its beneficial mode of production to spread by themselves throughout the world. It treats trade agreements as proof of the benefits of having good relations with socialist society; proof that is supposed to impress and convince the rulers and “economic leaders” in other countries —if not of socialism itself, at least of the advantages of peaceful relations with it.
In the name of this fantasy the CPSU allows the internationalized capitalists and their national guardians to get at quite a bit of what it initially put out of their reach. It takes part in destabilizing its own system.
The Party also sees to its masses’ internationalism — with socialist victories at the Olympics.
What business do communists have showing up at sports contests and opera festivals? What are they doing bringing children up to be gymnastic cripples and buying dress coats for their musicians’ trips abroad? Do they think such export articles are a proper substitute for the revolution they do not want to export? Why else should the CPSU need these ludicrous national accomplishments, which bourgeois states stage to feed their citizens’ patriotism and appeal to the nationalistic taste of foreign observers?
The CPSU has actually replaced communist agitation by enhancement of the national image. And this is not even the worst mistake of the general line of its foreign policy, which it calls “competition of the systems.”
What are communists doing trafficking on capitalist world markets? What are they doing buying pipes from West German steel companies in order to sell natural gas to West German power suppliers, helping West German banks earn money in the process? Why should they be importing grain from U.S. farmers — instead of making the gigantic territory they are in charge of into an independent, invulnerable paradise for working people?!
The CPSU has an explanation for all this that sounds materialistic but is not, and is certainly not communist: “International trade is of mutual benefit.” Has this Party no idea who it wants to benefit on the other side? And what benefit does it actually register on its own side apart from debts and a shortage of hard currency?!
When the CPSU tries to start up a flourishing trade with the capitalist West, it is behaving exactly like the other side in one respect. It does not care what kind of system, what goals and well-organized objective constraints it is involving itself in. It simply assumes that the other side is a slightly distorted mirror image of itself. Just as capitalists — along with their journalistic superstructure — take socialism’s planned economy as a business opportunity which is still lacking an open market and the many practical devices of the market economy, the CPSU takes capitalism as a system of levers for producing useful goods which can fit in magnificently with the planned economy according to the criteria of cost accounting, even if it does not meet the criteria of a planned supply of goods for the masses. These communists thus have no problem forever talking at cross purposes with their capitalist business partners, who have nothing but rates of profit in mind and don’t give a damn about supplying anyone, and end up striking a bargain over a bottle of Crimean champagne. This is how they succeed in disregarding all conflicts of interest they are in fact confronted with.
The conflict of interest they disregard most casually, in their eagerness to share in Western business, is the clash with Western workers that this business inevitably involves. With the self-assurance of a power that will not acknowledge any economic principles other than its own, the CPSU assumes Western wage laborers will derive a benefit from East-West business similar to the one it constantly promises its own working masses, namely more and better supplies of goods. Of course, it knows better when it makes occasional reference to the benefits of such trade for the workers in the West. The Party boasts not so much about the Ladas and fur caps its firms supply as about the jobs “protected” by its orders for Western goods. It is thus aware that capitalist wage laborers are vitally dependent on the business success of the company they serve. But as indicated by such boasts, it by no means finds this state of dependence fundamentally objectionable. Exactly those well-known aspects of capitalism which show that it functions totally differently to a Soviet plan are, for the CPSU, at most evidence that capitalism does not function properly — and in any case functions better when the CP provides it with orders for goods. It regards this as its contribution to improving the social situation of the working class in the West.
Above all, the Party is certain that it is doing a great favor for the “responsible” employers and economic and social policymakers in the West. For it imputes to them, quite in its own image, neither fierce competitiveness — although this is precisely what its trade pros play upon — nor the cynicism of the capitalistic calculation of labor costs. It thinks they simply have problems for which it can offer quite a bit of help in solving, notably its own system for them to emulate. It presents to the capitalistic business and politician mafia its state as an example of how well their state and economy could fare if they would only pay more attention to “social concerns.” This is all the “constructive criticism” these communists have of the capitalism they see flourishing everywhere. There is no greater, material “conflict of interests” they want to enter into with the states of this different kind of “social order.”
They do not even see any greater conflict where certain effects of worldwide trade and commerce attest to anything but the absurd notion that rulers and money owners in imperialist states are bothered by massive destitution. The Party knows the situation of the “Third World” well enough to emphatically repudiate any responsibility for it. It also points to the guilty party when it cites the statistics on the “net capital transfer” of billions of dollars out of the overindebted slums of the world primarily to the U.S., and lashes out at other shameful injustices of world trade. But this is by no means a reason for the CPSU to refuse to participate constructively in this system of imperialist pauperization. It merely sees injustices committed by the powerful and voices all kinds of recommendations about how to eliminate them — in the name of the victims and directed to those who ‘‘bear the responsibility.” Instead of criticizing the systematic imperialist grip on the wealth of the whole world, these communists subscribe to the downright counterrevolutionary nonsense of wanting the tools of the capitalistic world market to be used better. This would supposedly bring about what it imagines to be the actual purpose of trade and credit, GATT, the IMF and the World Bank, namely an “international division of labor” of universal social benefit.
The CPSU thus likes to interfere in the conflicts of interest of capitalistic economic life — not with an opposed material interest of its own, but from a strangely fictitious competitive standpoint. It speaks of a “competition of the systems ,” understanding that not as involving a really fundamental alternative, but more like a contest between different solutions to identical problems, namely efficient production, just distribution, etc.
This very view proves how incommensurate the two systems actually are. The CPSU recommends its “model” as the better solution to problems the capitalist world simply does not have. Rather, imperialistic business life creates all kinds of conflicts which are utterly foreign to a planned economy. One of these is a very real conflict of interest with the planned economy itself, as soon as the socialists let themselves in for trade and credit relations with the capitalistic business world. The desired transactions come about only to the extent that the socialist trade agencies behave and prove useful as perfectly normal competitors on the capitalist markets, with solid purchasing power in hard currency, on the one hand, and goods at competitive prices, on the other. This “objective constraint” includes criteria of profitability which do not fit in at all with socialist “cost accounting” and its comfortable bureaucratic production norms. It also involves the constantly renewed necessity of procuring hard currency, although the communists in charge should know what that means: as soon as it becomes a problem, it is already too late. One must run up debts, which only aggravates the problem by postponing its insolubility.
But this small insight is evidently beyond the grasp of the CPSU’s economic research institutes. The Party will not recognize this capitalist conflict with its own material interests as a conflict either, but prefers to translate it into a problem to be constructively solved. It sees it as another bit of “competition of the systems,” i.e., for solutions to identical problems. And the problem the CPSU sees its economy faced with is known utterly uncritically as the “fight for world standards.” The magnificent achievements of capitalist progress receive full marks, as if their economic essence were that they manage to solve a socialist productivity problem. Self-critically, these communists compare their own economy — thereby making it clear who is actually measuring himself against whom, beyond all ideological interpretation and beyond all the inevitable effects on the working classes.
For this measurement is a practical affair. It takes place through price comparison in dollars on world market terms and makes a mockery of all intentions to improve supply, accelerate technological progress, etc. Capitalists hardly need to reorient themselves when they make use of the range of goods and markets in the East bloc. They may have wrong ideas about the planned economy and its guiding principles, but they earn money and can thus achieve their goal as well as on any capitalist market. The governing communists, on the other hand, are confronted with movements in prices which lack any usefulness for their planned economic carryings-on. In the midst of their economic system they must set up special departments with preferential treatment for Western trade, to get the dollars rolling and not the rubles. And if they do not notice anything about their own firms, they could see by the Polish economy — and their own expenses for subsidizing it — how capitalist credit and the restraints of debt service work toward destroying their mode of production.
In fact the CPSU knows no such doubts. It speculates on the purchased progress — as well as on a clear political gain from its Western trade. By its international business deals, of all things, it wants to prove how badly leaders everywhere should want to preserve peace, since a war would put an end to the brisk traffic in goods and debts all around the globe. Everything about this proof is wrong.
First of all, the actors on the capitalist world market are not interested in its welfare, but in the success of their own wealth or that of their national business community, even if this involves the destruction of whole spheres of world trade and of numerous competitors. That is why a flourishing commerce with its merciless competitive struggles create material for all kinds of conflicts which are taken care of by the responsible politicians, i.e., raised to the level of competition between their political powers. And every such conflict may be the occasion for a government to become convinced that it must secure the conditions of its nation’s welfare by using force against other states. In short, what cause for war would the imperialist states have if they had not, by way of their worldwide capital turnover, drawn all nations into a perpetual, total struggle for existence that requires violent supervision?!
Secondly, this makes it one of the easiest of exercises for imperialist politics to put a temporary end to the business life it fundamentally ensures, for the sake of keeping the whole thing under control. Bourgeois politicians do not happen to share the idyllic view of their capitalists’ competitive struggle as a peaceful contest. They know the extortionate qualities of every successful transaction and of the business resources created and employed in the process, and know they themselves are not merely free enough but downright obligated to put the extortion before the transaction if the general situation calls for it.
Thirdly, business with the socialist bloc is that department of the world market which is utterly subject to a political proviso from the beginning. In this connection imperialist politicians, who normally think in terms of their national balance sheets on a dollar basis, suddenly start seeing things rather like their communist adversaries who are keen on easier technical progress, and proceed to slow down their business world — for example, by the “Cocom list” — in order to prevent such effects from coming about. The way they take care of their capitalists’ East-bloc trade fundamentally tends towards sabotage. And if this ruins some of their own businessmen — U.S. farmers, for example — this is one of the contradictions that governing democrats with their national responsibility can easily live with.
Consequently, nowhere in world trade is there a compelling objective reason for peace. On the contrary, it creates supervision requirements fraught with war, and demands for disciplining competitors. And vis-à-vis the Soviet Union the imperialist powers assert a common, global security interest that overrides all competitive disputes among themselves. This interest is brought to bear against the Soviet Union in all East-bloc trade the capitalist nations engage in. This means that the anti-Soviet viewpoint is often enough directed against East-bloc trade itself. But there is no greater mistake than to turn this around and regard the maintenance and expansion of East-West trade as a step in overcoming imperialism’s “policy of peace” toward the socialist camp. Instead, the deals that come about are invariably examined for possibilities of blackmail and sabotage. And when Western politicians, almost in unison with their communist adversaries, jabber about the peaceful nature of trade and commerce, this only reveals what they always think of first when it comes to East-bloc trade, namely the continuing conflict calling for war.
It is undoubtedly a supreme achievement of the CPSU’s peace policy that it resolutely ignores the political conflict of interests the West launches by taking up flourishing business relations with its planned economy. No matter what the West does, the CP has included trade in its planned economic system as a peace-promoting international benefit activity and — with an awareness of itself as the ruler over an empire that sets its own standards — it considers this view of trade to be objective. It sovereignly ignores the fact that imperialism functions totally differently to socialism in this respect as well — and thereby submits de facto to the standards that really hold in world trade, because imperialism sets and enforces them.
It does not spare its people anything, but lays an additional economic burden on them with the obligations of Western trade. It does not secure peace, but exposes its state to some more blackmail. With its offer of an exemplary system as an alternative, it does not impress any ruler — and there is no one else it attempts to exert influence on! — but only makes clear that it would not dream of engaging in any ruinous competitive struggle. The allied democracies are exposed to infinitely more and harder material pressure from each other than from their archenemy! And only in this ironical sense, if at all, does the CPSU really contribute to improving the world: hell would break loose in the competitive struggle between nations if the Soviet Union acted half the way its enemies do and answered every conflict of interest by adopting the corresponding fighting position. Should one praise the CPSU for having made its state such a comfortable adversary for imperialism?