A Condensed Version of: For a New Liberty:The Libertarian Manifesto
by Murray N. Rothbard
Compiled and Edited by Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume
Soviet Foreign Policy
(Editor’s Note: This section was originally written in the present tense. However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is now mostly history. Therefore, I have taken the liberty to change the tense of most of the verbs from the present to the past.)
During the cold war, American foreign policy was based on the assumption of a Russian attack. But, was that a realistic assumption?
No doubt, the Soviets would have liked to replace the existing social systems with communism. But this would hardly mean that any sort of attack would have been realistic. In the first place, Marxism itself holds that victory is inevitable. After all, the tensions and contradictions within each society would inevitably lead to internal revolution or democratic change leading to communism. In other words, the very idea of “exporting” communism on the backs of the Soviet military was contradictory to Marxist-Leninist theory. And, Marxist-Leninist theory, with its goal of world Communism, was the sole basis for the cold warrior’s conjuring up of the threat.
Of course, this was not meant to say that Soviet leaders would never have done anything contrary to their guiding theory. But, as ordinary rulers of a nation-state, the case for an imminent threat was weakened. This is because, if Soviet rulers were acting in the interest of their own nation-state, the argument for imminent military assault crumbles.
The Bolsheviks gave little thought to foreign policy because they firmly believed that Communist revolution would soon follow in the industrial countries. After World War I they adopted a foreign policy of “peaceful coexistence.” Although Russia was to serve as a beacon and supporter of Communism throughout the world, it would promote peaceful relations and not try to export Communism through warfare. Survival was the foremost goal of foreign policy. The state was never to be endangered by inter-State warfare.
As time went on, this policy was reinforced by “conservatism.” Keeping power took precedence over the ideal of world revolution. This served to strengthen their “peaceful coexistence” policy.
The Bolsheviks were the only political party during World War I to clamor for an immediate pullout. Indeed, they went so far as to call for the defeat of their own government (“revolutionary defeatism”). Then, when the Bolsheviks took power, Lenin concluded the “appeasement” peace of Brest-Litovsk in 1918. This took Russia out of the war at the price of granting the Germans parts of the Russian empire. In other words, the Bolsheviks started out as a “peace-at-any-price” party.
After World War I the new Polish State attacked Russia and grabbed a part of White Russia and the Ukraine. In addition, several other national groups (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) broke away. But, it was clear to Soviet rulers that the Old Russian State was supposed to remain intact. So, the emphasis of both Russian and German foreign policy was to recapture their pre-World War I borders—what they considered the “true” borders of their States.
Germany, under Hitler, took strong measures to recapture their lost territories. But, Soviet leaders were cautious and did nothing until after the Stalin-Hitler pact when there was no danger in doing so.
On June 22, 1941, Germany launched an unprovoked assault on the Soviet Union. This was one of the pivotal facts in history. Stalin was so unwarlike and so unprepared for the assault that Germany was almost able to conquer Russia. Hitler was so motivated by anti-Communist ideology that he threw away rationality and launched the beginning of his ultimate defeat.
Since most cold warriors approved of the alliance between the uS and Russia during World War II, most of them concede that the Soviets were not aggressive until World War II. But this overlooks the German assault of Russia in June of 1941. There is no doubt but what Germany started this war making it necessary for the Russians to roll back and conquer the German army. In fact, it would be easier to make the case that the uS was more expansionist than Russia. After all the uS conquered and occupied Germany and Italy neither of which ever directly attacked it.
The uS, Britain, and Russia agreed on joint three-power occupation of the conquered territories at the end of the war. The uS was the first to break that agreement by refusing to allow Russia a role in the military occupation of Italy. Despite this, in order to preserve peaceful relations, Stalin held back the various Communist movements in France and Italy. As a result, these movements were soon ousted from the coalition. He also abandoned the Communist movements in Greece and urged them to turn over power to the British. However, leaders of partisan groups in other countries (Tito in Yugoslavia and Mao in China) refused Stalin’s requests. These rejections were the beginning of the ”schisms” that developed within the Communist world during the Cold War.
Russia occupied and governed Eastern Europe after winning a war that was launched against her. Its initial goal was not to communize but to assure that Eastern Europe would not be the avenue of assault on Russia that it had been in the past. Russia wanted countries on its borders which were not anti-Communist in a military sense and would not be used as a springboard for invasion. Only in Finland did Russia find non-Communist politicians it could trust to be peaceful. Therefore, it was willing to pull its troops out even though it had fought two wars with Finland in recent years.
In other Eastern European countries Russia maintained coalition governments for several years not fully communizing them until 1948. Furthermore, she readily pulled her troops out of Austria and Azerbaijan.
If Russia had been hell-bent on imposing communism, then why the “soft line” on Finland? The only plausible answer is that her primary motive was security for the nation-state with success of world communism being secondary.
The cold warriors were never able to explain the deep schisms in world Communism. If Communists are motivated by the mutual bond of Marxism-Leninism, how come the China-Russia split, the enmity between the Yugoslavia and Albania or the military conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam? The answer is simple. Once a revolutionary movement seizes State power, it quickly takes on the attributes of a ruling class with a class interest in retaining State power. World revolution pales in the face of the conflicting interests of the State elites.
Since their victory over aggression in World War II, the Soviets have continued to be militarily conservative. They have only used troops to defend their territory and not to extend it further. The incidents in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 were surely reprehensible. But nevertheless they were still conservative and defensive and not expansionist.
In no case since World War II did Russia use troops to extend or conquer more territory. The main thrust of Soviet conservatism was to preserve what it already had at home and abroad, not to jeopardize it. Its militaristic actions in Czechoslovakia were acts of imperial protectionism, not revolution or aggrandizement. Detente was not altruistic. It was in the Soviet national interest.
Even the anti-Soviet former CIA Director William Colby recognized the overwhelming concern of the Soviets to be the defensive and to avoid another catastrophic invasion.
Furthermore, even the Chinese have pursued a pacific foreign policy. They did not invade Taiwan. They allowed the islands of Quemoy and Matsu to remain in Chiang Kai-shek’s hands. They have not moved against British and Portuguese-occupied Hong Kong and Macao. Their invasion of Vietnam was a brief incursion followed by unilateral withdrawal. They declared a unilateral cease-fire and withdrew after having easily defeated the Indian army in their border war.
To be continued
The Essence of Liberty Volume I: Liberty and History chronicles the rise and fall of the noble experiment with constitutionally limited government. It features the ideas and opinions of some of the world’s foremost contemporary constitutional scholars. This is history that you were not taught at the mandatory government propaganda camps otherwise known as “public schools.” You will gain a clear understanding of how America’s decline and decay is really nothing new and how it began almost immediately with the constitution. Available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
You might be interested in the other two volumes of this three volume set: The Essence of Liberty Volume II: The Economics of Liberty and The Essence of Liberty Volume III: Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic.