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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15499/a-soviet-foreign-policy-a-revisionist-perspective/

A Soviet Foreign Policy: A Revisionist Perspective

February 1, 2011 by

It is vital — indeed, it is literally a life-and-death matter — that Americans be able to look as coolly and clear-sightedly, as free from myth, at their government’s record in foreign affairs as they increasingly are able to do in domestic politics. FULL ARTICLE by Murray N. Rothbard

{ 39 comments }

Boyfromworld February 1, 2011 at 10:22 am

I think Rothbard had little too lovely picture of Stalin and Lenin. But still, he was correct about the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin.

Wandering Cynic February 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm

A little? It seems more like a love letter. It would take all day to refute all the wrongs listed by Rothbard.

It was Lenin who looked forward to and advocated another world war because the suffering it would cause would be the spark needed for communist revolutions in other parts of Europe.

And the Soviet army was “in disrepair” in June 1941? Is he kidding? The USSR had the largest land army in the world and was undergoing a massive rearming program 2nd only to Nazi Germany itself. No, the problem was that the “peaceful” Stalin had executed 80% of the skilled Red Army officers and replaced them with talentless, but loyal, hacks who did nothing but spew party dogma.

thesystemworks February 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm

It is true that he is too soft on Lenin. I mean, its almost totally forgotten today that Lenin invaded newly-independent Poland in 1920 and certainly eyed lands further west. Amazingly, little Poland managed to beat back the Soviets, under the able military command of Józef Piłsudski.

Sione February 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm

thesystemworks

A newly independent Poland, called into existence by the victorious Western allies (including the USA), occupying what had been Russian territory…

Whatever the evil of Lenin, it is clear that Rothbard’s contention remains correct. Soviet leadership of the time wanted to retain or regain what had been Russian territory. They did not prosecute an aggressive war of expansion.

How about you go back and read what Rothbard actually wrote?

Sione

thesystemworks February 1, 2011 at 8:12 pm

True, that is Rothbard’s point. I have had read the essay before, by the way, and I apologise if I misrepresented it. My contention about Lenin considering western expansion was not Rothbard’s. Of course, those who believe in freedom and self-determination for all nations must surely sympathise with the Poles, a proud people whose nation lay dormant from 1795 to the end of WWI.

Self-determination for all nations who want it, I say! Scots, Poles, Irish, Jews, American Confederated and New Hampshire Libertarians of course. Keeps Empire and big government in check.

Victor February 2, 2011 at 10:47 am

Soviet leadership of the time wanted to retain or regain what had been Russian territory. They did not prosecute an aggressive war of expansion.

No, you are completely wrong. Assault on Poland was needed to clean the way to the Germany. And what does it mean that the bolsheviks wanted to keep control over russian territory? Do you mean that this land belonged to Lenin? or maybe it was Trotskie’s property and some evil Poles stole it from him? Or probably Poles did not deserve a right for self-identification as every other nation now does?

If Lenin and his fellow bolsheviks were so content to preserve the Russian heritage then probably they should not murder the Czar and his family in the first place? I am not even speaking about churches and other items of cultural heritage.

And I am not even speaking about the bolshevik coup de etat against a legally elected government…

Kabud February 5, 2011 at 5:02 pm

hed some light on what happened in Tambov. One third of the population was killed. The Bolsheviks were experimenting on people with torture and extermination techniques. When I started to explain to the Germans what happened in Tambov, they were shocked. Those who you would expect to be best prepared for such revelations, researchers into the Holocaust, were surprised at the sophisticated methods of hostage taking (to reveal hidden fighters), and the manner of executions used by the Bolsheviks. A lot of this history is simply incredible. The Bolsheviks introduced a system of concentration camps for men, women, elderly people and children, with various types of terror and indoctrination. That’s what they called an occupation. But the most important thing, what emerged from the ruins of the Tambov Republic, was a permanent system of police control. From time to time they practiced, yet again, hostage taking, indoctrination, Komsomol [youth wing of the Communist Party], and now, the next stage: – they distributed this occupational regime to the rest of the country; so that socialism emerged not from Marx and Engels, but from the practice of occupying Tambov. That was the real socialism Stalin accomplished and accommodated. That system was ideal for preparing Russia for the next stage in revolutionary war. If you read Red Army papers from the late 1920s and 30s, you will find a lot of stuff regarding the kind of regime they would establish in the liberated areas of Europe.”

According to Kalashnikov, in the period immediately following the Russian Civil War, Soviet military theorists saw Poland as their main enemy. It was assumed that Moscow would attack Poland and carry out Sovietization. A new regime would be established. Kalashnikov said: “The summary is as follows: We ‘liberate’ a given area to the West, then we bring in 5,000 political commissars, so that in two or three weeks they will establish the basis for a Soviet system.” The measures proposed in Red Army plans were derived from the experience of setting up the Tambov occupation regime. The generals and police officials of the Soviet Union gradually improved their methods. Subduing an area became a science. The overall idea was simple, according to Kalashnikov: “We kill all our enemies.” In the 1920s the Soviet strategists were naming certain villages in Poland or Belarus. “The Army commanders were planning to establish a Soviet regime [in Poland]. At the top of everything,” said Kalashnikov, “was bringing in and putting up a powerful communist party. Of course, we will find some local activists, and together with them we will establish revolutionary committees. But local resources are not sufficient in this regard. So we need commissars and experts to supplement them, along with the Red Army. I must underline this part of the military strategy so you will see that the Bolshevik regime was not just a product of ideology, but a military way of thinking. What do we do with an area taken by the military machine? Sovietization was a military strategy, on which ideological cover was given by communism.”

And so, the Soviet Union was a gigantic military formation. It is not about economics, or consumerism, or building socialism. It is about taking and occupying territory.

Sione February 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Wandering Cynic

“It would take all day to refute all the wrongs listed by Rothbard”

I am going to call you out about your nonsensical bullshit.

First of all, you are dishonest. You are utterly incapable of refuting Rothbard’s analysis at all (or else you’d have done it). That you resorted to a smear in substitution for an actual attempt at refutation speaks volumes about you.

Secondly, and let’s be clear about it, you have no idea of the history. Given this, it is no wonder you failed to consider and understand Rothbard’s contention, argument and conclusion. You lack the background knowledge and experience to understand it. Clinging to a national myth is no substitute for dealing with facts, as challenging or as uncomfortable as they may be.

Thirdly, you were too dishonest to admit your ignorance and start to work on repairing same. The shame is your.

“It was Lenin who looked forward to and advocated another world war because the suffering it would cause would be the spark needed for communist revolutions in other parts of Europe.”

Did you actually consider what Rothbard wrote? Sure, it’s easier to substitute the sentiments you’d have liked him to have written and react to those, but that is not an honest approach (no matter how convenient it may be for you to engage in it).

Rothbard indicated that the Soviet leadership expected that the forces of history would naturally lead the rest of the world towards communism (he wrote about that on several occasions and he was consistent on this point- go check it out). Lenin’s opinion reflects conventional Marxist view (check Marx and Lenin’s writings for the details). He did not posit that the USSR should invade the rest of the world though. As evil as he was, he did not intend to try that on. Anyway, he believed that societies in other countries would evolve towards communism of their own accord (for goodness sakes, read what the man actually said and wrote about it). He may have considered that the outbreak of another world war would be a condition that could hurry things along in the desired direction, but that did not in any way, shape or form mean that he was going to start that war to invade the rest of Europe. Or are you about to rewrite history in order to continue to cling to your beliefs?

Re the Soviet army of June ’41

Are you kidding? Either the Soviet army of June 1941 was a formidable fighting force ready and able to engage successfully in battle- a terrible threat to Europe and the rest of the neighbours of the USSR- or it was not. It wasn’t both at the same time.

As you’ve admitted the officer core was stripped of skilled officers. You may care to read the history of how the quality of that army, its training, equipment and resources were put to the test in a war against Finland. While the USSR army may have been what you consider the “largest land army in the World”, it was not capable of defeating tiny Finland at that point and, large or not, it stood little chance against the Germans in June ’41. A conscript army of unmotivated, badly trained, badly led, under-equipped troops, it certainly was “in disrepair”- certainly not capable of projecting power beyond the borders of the USSR, let alone providing serious deterrence or defense against invasion- not in June ’41.

If you are going to take issue with what Rothbard wrote, at least have the decency to check your premise, do the historical research and actually read what the man wrote.

Sione

Boyfromworld February 1, 2011 at 4:12 pm

“Anyway, he believed that societies in other countries would evolve towards communism of their own accord”

That’s true about Lenin. As Rothbard said, he used his army to gain back the territories of Czarist Russia.

“A conscript army of unmotivated, badly trained, badly led, under-equipped troops, it certainly was “in disrepair”- certainly not capable of projecting power beyond the borders of the USSR, let alone providing serious deterrence or defense against invasion- not in June ’41.”

Yes, Soviet army was in very awful situation in Winter War. This was followed by modernization of tactics, equipment and other parts of their military. Germanys conditions were much better at the start of the Barbarossa, but towards the end of WW2 Soviets got quite nice military power.

I have now a quite divided image about Stalin. My friend read from biography of Stalin, that before his dead he was preparing the launch of WW3 and this was one of reasons for suspected assasination. It has been said too that Stalin were going to invade Germany in -41, -42 or -43, but Hitler was faster. Rothbards statements about calming the Communist Parties in the world were new to me, and they doesn’t quite support this view, but they don’t deny it neither(Stalin may have gained some subjective strategic advantage).

My thoughts about Cold War and threat of communism can be summarised like this: After the death of Stalin, expansionism died in Soviet Union.

Victor February 2, 2011 at 8:37 am

After the death of Stalin, expansionism died in Soviet Union.

Soviet expansionism and imperialism never ever died. Soviets had to change their tactics and alter their strategy, but they’ve never ceased to be imperialists.

Cuban missile crisis happened well after the Stalin’s death, arms race, constant propaganda abroad, Afgan war, other wars, etc.

Vasily February 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm

The war actually was openly considered a precondition not only to communist revolution in Europe, but in Russia itself. Without World War 1 communists would not be able to come to power even in Russia. And immediately since the beginning bolsheviks declared that their ultimate goal was the “world revolution” and the reason for that was exactly that they considered it to be the only way for a communist state to survive; they thought that either all of the would is revolutionised and adopts communism or imperialism inevitably destroys the island of wonderful communism.

They immediately started to “export” revolution but soon found that people in the west did not buy their slogans. That’s what happened in Poland when Tukhachevsky (hoping memory serves not to confuse the name) was close to defeating it, but instead of joining their Red army the poor and “exployted” “proletariat” united against them. They considered Germany to be the key – if they cannot start revolution in Germany there would be no hope (because the industrial development their was at the most advanced state and therefore their proletariat was supposed to be ready). But German proletariat was no more keen on starting the revolution than the Poland’s. So they decided that the only hope was another war and started preparing for it.

All the resources of the Soviet Union were thrown into building the huge army. They starved millions to death to build an extra thousand war planes. Only problem was that the “conservative” Stalin failed to understand that it’s the soldiers who fight, not tanks and cannons. And soldiers (being forced to join the army by the killers of their relatives) did not want to fight for communists as most of them were peasants who were roothlessly oppressed and destroyed during the recent civil war. To help start the war Stalin helped Hitler to come to power. Without Stalin’s help it would have been very difficult for him to do. He watched Hitler attaking his neighbours waiting for Germany, France and others to exhaust their resources and getting ready to attack himself.

The attack was scheduled just months after Hitler’s attack in June 1941. For Hitler the attack he started was a suicide considering the size and quality of the weapons and the size of the army. That’s why Stalin was so unprepared for that attack; he considered such an attack a suicide, not without reasons. Hitler might have hoped only to use the lack of desire to fight for communists on the part of soviet soldiers, but still his attack was probably an act of desperation in the face of being attacked himself. The secret mobilisation started in Soviet Union long before June 21. All these developments are the reasons why the documents of that time are still considered secret in Russia, even those concerning supplies of boots for the army. But some historians have already refuted the old fairy tale about the superiority of German army, especially weapons, and the peaceful nature of communists. Those interested might refer to the works of Mark Solonin who analyses a lot of official documents which have inevitably been leaked since the end of the World War and what he manages to obtain having little access to archives as irrefutable evidence in his analysis.

It might be argued that even having the plans and the huge army the Soviet Union would have no success attacking Europe just like when attacking Finland. That might well have been true. But to say there was no intent to attack – not true.

There’s no need in that, too. To support liberty one does not have to believe that communists were peaceful.

There’s also a contradiction – it is considered in libertarian literature (and 100% rightfully so) that big government is interested in and causes wars; but what government is bigger than a communist one? Even without the “world revolution” theory it’s quite difficult for a communist government to live without a military “enemy”.

Simon Grey February 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm

“First, there is no doubt that the Soviets, along with all other Marxist-Leninists, would like to replace all existing social systems by Communist regimes. But such a sentiment, of course, scarcely implies any sort of realistic threat of attack — just as an ill wish in private life can hardly be grounds for realistic expectation of imminent aggression.”

Well said. Neoconservative foreign policy places way too much emphasis on mere intent. It’s like the neo-cons love going to war (Cue George Carlin) Another frustrating thing about neo-cons is their hypocritical objection to foreign governments possessing nukes.

Jonas February 1, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Being from Lithuania, it’s always hard to stomach USSR-apologetic material, whatever the thesis. It is also hard for me to participate intelectually in such a discussion because I’m not much of a history buff. However, while it may, perhaps, be true that USSR was never a threat to the US, it was very much a threat to Lithuania and the other Baltic states. (Sorry if I seem to prefer a democratic state over a communist state, even if both states are equally illegitimate.)

What interests me in this discussion is the process through which a libertarian society would propagate, i.e. spread actual liberty to its oppressed neighbours? Would it even try to do so? Could it? Obviously, the method of the Cold War – of the US opressing and defrauding its own people into bankrupting a totalitarian regime (I’m just assuming that’s what sped up the collapse of the USSR; as I’ve said I am not a history buff) – is illegitimate and immoral, no matter the actual consequences. What I’m speaking of is whether there could be legitimate mechanisms through which a free people could genuinely liberate an oppressed people.

Imagine a world in which an anarcho-capitalist society (arguably as free as it gets) coexists side-by-side with a totalitarian regime. The regime poses little threat to its neighbor, espousing the type of conservatism described by Rothbard in this article. Obviously the nebulous ancap borders are guarded by corporations that are willingly paid for their services by anyone who does not wish to end up under the yoke of the totalitarian regime.

However, the regime is clearly agressing against its own people, who have tried time and again to revolt and break free, but were unsuccessful. Perhaps it is only a small subset of the entire population, a minority on the outskirts of its territory, which is how it could remain oppressed. How, if at all, would people so inclined (no conscription, no compulsion; merely like-minded people deciding to stop crime against other people – supposedly the only type of agression allowed by libertarian principles) within the anarcho-capitalist society go about freeing their neighbors?

Perhaps a profit motive could be introduced via the homesteading principle, i.e. a lot of the property or resources claimed by the totalitarian state are not owned by anyone legitimately, ergo they are up for grabs. If this mode of thinking were to be followed, perhaps a corporation would arise within the ancap society with the sole purpose of homesteading these valuable assets through force, in the process bringing liberation to the oppressed people.

Now this is surely not the only way to look at the situation, nor is it the best way, but this is what popped into my head when I thought about it and decided to follow the thread. I would be very interested in all of your opinions regarding this matter.

Dagnytg February 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Jonas,

An Ancap society wouldn’t go about freeing their neighbors. Their neighbors would go about freeing themselves.

At best, the Ancap society would be a temptation to others in the totalitarian society both to public and private interests. Depending on the degree of suppression, in this totalitarian society, some Ancap individuals might take an interest either (economically) for profit or (ethically) for altruism but either way I doubt it would be a concerted effort on anyone’s part.

Remember, the ideas of liberty and freedom…are self evident and inherent to being human. In the end, the totalitarian country dissolves (as all nations eventually do) due to the economic and cultural vibrancy of its Ancap neighbor.

Victor February 2, 2011 at 8:31 am

Your claims sound great, but are a disaster in practice. If you look into the history of the early Soviet regime (around 1917-1923), you will quickly find out examples of ancap movements and even “liberal” movements and formations that were violently crashed by the totalitarian and militaristic bolshevik guerrillas.

It is a complete fairy tale that the totalitarian powers will stand by and observe thriving ancap or other capitalist/liberal neighbor. Soviets crushed Ukrainian Central Rada, “rightist” Socialist-Revolutionary regimes in the Russian villages, and every other weaker country was grabbed by them whenever they could.

Soviet foreign policy was exceptionally expansionist and imperialist. Rothbard actually displayed that he had no clue in these matters.

Sione February 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Victor

Seems you don’t read too good.

Rothbard’s contention was that the Soviet leadership sought to consolidate control over territory regarded as Russian. That is, what had been part of the Russian Empire prior to their take over. He writes that they were far more interested in protecting themselves and their state than they were in invading other countries. Go check what he wrote.

Once the Soviets were in control of Russia they sure were savage indeed- no argument there. Nevertheless that behaviour does not support your assertion that they were expansionist and imperialist. It has nothing to do with it. So, you’ve failed to supply any evidence or reasoning that supports the assertion you’ve made. Guess you’re the one dealing in fairy tales.

Sione

Victor February 4, 2011 at 5:46 am

the Soviet leadership sought to consolidate control over territory regarded as Russian

The Soviet leadership was not formally recognized until the first “progressive”—FDR— formally recognized it and then also betrayed cossacks and committed other not so good deeds.

The so called Soviet Leadership is nothing more than a blood-thirsty mob of totalitarian sect that got to power in a result of a coup. It was not in any way legal: this mob had to engage into a civil war to subvert the citizens under their tyranny.

He writes that they were far more interested in protecting themselves and their state than they were in invading other countries.

The Soviets invaded other countries from the very beginning: they’ve settled peace treaty with the Ukrainian Peoples Republic (Українська Народна Республіка) then invaded and occupied it, then they’ve attempted to overthrow the government in Germany but failed, launched an assault against Poles and failed.

Then they used Communist International to undermine governments, collect intelligence and to spread soviet propaganda in an attempt to perform a world proletarian revolution. Their aggressive and radical agenda split the United front movements in Europe, weakened social-reformist parties in Germany that paved the way to for Nazi to get to power.

Then NKVD and other Soviet secret services took part in the Spanish civil war to install a puppet there to control the far west of Europe.

Then the Soviets signed various economic treaties with the Germany including the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty that split the Europe between two empires. As a result, Soviet Union gained territory at an expense of Poland, Baltic states, Romania, etc.

Then the Soviet Union invaded Finland but the invasion did not give all the expected results. During WWII Soviets broke peace treaty with Japan, stroke it into back and occupied Japanese territory.

After the WWII Soviet Union installed puppets in the Europe and split Germany in two parts, outreaching their control far beyond the Russian/Moscow empires.

And from the very beginning till now Soviet intelligence services, all CheKa, NKVD, MGB, KGB, GRU, SVR, and other secret services operated vast intelligence networks all around the world in a conquest for control over still independent states. They’ve trained muslim terrorists, sponsored their war against Israel and promoted Anti-Americanism.

And I am not even mentioning their allies like China, Cuba (a convenient isle to place ballistic and mid-range missiles), and others.

From the very beginning the bolshevik coup in Russia was not intended to be limited by Russia only, the original and fundamental idea that bolsheviks pursued was world wide proletarian revolution that should wipe away the governments and bring into power communist activists.

If anything, Soviet Union was always imperial by design. To sit on a butt and wait till the bolshevik mob captures the world is a childish and dumb idea.

Sione February 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Jonas

My Hungarian friends say they are not so keen on Russians either. Interestingly enough, they don’t discuss what the German SS did in Hungary so much. More intereting still is that one of them married a sensationally beautiful Russian girl. Ah well, must be that there are gooduns and badduns.

The USSR collapsed because of its internal inefficiencies and economic dislocations. Von Mises explained how the collapse would be inevitable back in the ’20s when he outlined how serious the problem of socialist calculation would be. He demonstrated that it was insolvable.
His books are available from the Mises Institute. For example, try

http://mises.org/store/Economic-Calculation-in-the-Socialist-Commonwealth-P59.aspx

Also they are available free of charge to download, right here on this site.

The USSR could not continue, even when propped up by the West (as indeed it was). Collapse was inevitable. When it came it was a huge surprise to Western governments. It was not a matter of military “outspending” the USSR. It was an inherent property of socialist “economic” structure that caused the inevitable collapse.

In the case of the an-cap society bordering a totalitarian one, the situation is likely to result in an immediate and continuing outflow of refugees (escaping from the totalitarian territory). The totalitarian system would soon collapse from its own internal problems and economic dislocations etc. (again I refer you to the problem of socialist calculation which dooms all socialism).

In your scenario the collapse would occur far sooner, with more rapidity, than what happened with the USSR. Since an an-cap society would not have a powerful government co-operating with the totalitarian one, there would be nothing to save or bail-out the totalitarian leadership from the consequences of their own disasterous planning policies and decisions .

Sione

Victor February 2, 2011 at 8:24 am

I would like to strike a clear fact: in Economic calculation Mises displayed not that the Soviet Union would collapse. He showed that rational economic conduct is not possible under socialism. It does not imply that the Soviet Union would collapse nor does it prove that the collapse happened due to economic calculation problem.

And indeed, it is extremely disputable whether the Soviet Union really collapsed and not the facade of the ruling elites.

Sione February 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Victor

Economic Calculation was one example (which I thought explains the problem and the impossibility of solution clearly, it’s up to the reader to follow it up with further reading, consideration, application and understanding). Von Mises wrote on the subject several times. He does make the prediction of the collapse of the socialist experiements including the Russian one. He was correct.

Your position is equivalent to that of a quack claiming that while his patient’s heart had failed and had stopped beating, that only meant that the circulation of blood throughout the patient’s body had ceased. It did not imply the patient had collapsed and died. Too late for resus, a haircut and a shave was prescribed…

Sione

Sione February 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

As for this, “And indeed, it is extremely disputable whether the Soviet Union really collapsed and not the facade of the ruling elites.”

You been watching too much of “A weekend at Bernie’s”.

Sione

newson February 2, 2011 at 6:19 pm

of course there was always a thriving black market in the ussr. the end of the soviet republic just allowed the kgb and the red mafiya to don business suits and vastly increase their reach and wealth. where the ussr didn’t invade the world, the red mafiya has. google semion mogelivich.

http://www.amazon.ca/product-reviews/0316294748

Victor February 3, 2011 at 3:48 am

Thanks for the link.
(: Google Viktor Bout instead…

newson February 3, 2011 at 9:33 am

friedman’s book is available (free) on the net:
http://is.gd/aCMQuN

Paul R. February 1, 2011 at 6:04 pm

“Here, the Russians demanded, not the reincorporation of Finland as a whole, but only of parts of the Karelian Isthmus that were ethnically Russian. When the Finns refused this demand, the “Winter War” (1939–1940) between Russia and Finland ensued, which ended with the Finns victorious and conceding nothing.”

It isn’t clear that the Russians would’ve been satisfied with what they originally demanded. If they had gotten it, the main defence line in the Karelian Isthmus would’ve become useless and the Red Army could’ve walked right in. This is basically why the Finns refused to give what the Russians demanded(IIRC Finland did offer something else instead like a smaller amount of territory and territory from more northern parts of the country).

The Finns didn’t officially win. Finland ceded 11 percent of its pre-war territory and 30 percent of its economic assets to the Soviet Union. And from Rothbard it doesn’t become clear, but once the war started the objective of the Soviet Union was indeed complete invasion and occupation.

“The cold warriors find it difficult to explain Russian actions in Finland. If Russia is always hell-bent to impose Communist rule wherever it can, why the “soft line” on Finland?”

Russians meddled quite a lot in the internal affairs of Finland. But that’s beside the point; what I’m really noticing is how from Rothbard you get the impression that the Russians could easily just impose Communist rule on Finland if they wanted to. But Finland wasn’t an occupied country and would’ve probably resisted to any such attempt(i.e. war).

After all this nitpicking I do agree with Rothbard when he says:

“…its motivation is security for the Russian nation-state against attack, with the success of world Communism playing a very minor role in its scale of priorities.”

Jim Rose February 2, 2011 at 3:15 am

On the former USSR, the really tough question is suppose the former USSR was indeed the evil empire under Stalin and/or later, would Rothbard’s position been any different? He would still, as a matter of principle, have had the advocate strict non-intervention and peaceful coexistence.

Rothbard was an astute observer of soviet economic affairs. Boettke makes this point very well in “The Forgotten Contribution: Murray Rothbard on Socialism in Theory and Practice,” The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, 2004 7(2): 71-89. (with Christopher Coyne).

Rothbard’s analysis of the true nature of the soviet state and foreign policy were pioneering contributions to public choice. The key to understanding Soviet politics was that under the regime’s surface lay fierce power struggles within the Soviet power elite and with overseas communist parties, and these struggles are common to any government, current or aspiring.

Caplan provides useful comments on chapter 16 of FNL at http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/04/econlog_book_cl_16.html

On nuclear disarmament, all include Rothbard must address Tom Schelling’s points that:

1. There is arms control but never disarmament. The latter would require universal brain surgery to eliminate all knowledge of nuclear weapons and of the principles of how to make them. Even the most primitive war can go from a state of virtual disarmament to total war, and World War 2 in 1939 compared to 1945 is an example.

2. A world without nuclear weapons –
a. would be a world in which the US, Russia, Israel, China, and a dozen others would have hair-trigger mobilization plans to rebuild nuclear weapons, and would have prepared targets to pre-empt other nations’ nuclear facilities, all in a high-alert status, with practice drills and secure emergency communications.
b. Every crisis would be a nuclear crisis because any war could become a nuclear war where the urge to pre-empt would dominate; and
c. Whoever gets the first few weapons again will coerce or pre-empt. It would be a nervous world.

Victor February 2, 2011 at 8:16 am

At the same time, it holds any coercive external imposition of Communism to be at best suspect, and at worst disruptive and counterproductive of genuine organic social change. Any idea of “exporting” Communism to other countries on the back of the Soviet military is totally contradictory to Marxist-Leninist theory.

As many have said it in this discussion above, Rothbard displayed a very clear example of wishful thinking and delusion and poor understanding of Marxist-Leninist theory.

Indeed, according to Marx the communism is an inevitable outcome. However, bolsheviks managed to conduct a violent and bloody proletarian revolution in a country where over 85% of population were peasants.

From the very beginning the bolshevik state was constructed as a totalitarian terrorist organization with absolutely no respect to human dignity and private property. Already in the early 1920-ies it launched an offensive against the Poles.

Bolsheviks ran the Communist International movement to undermine and sabotage foreign governments from the very beginning and to the very end (refactoring it into a foreign department of the Party Central Committee).

Bolsheviks took part in the Spanish revolution as well. And after a war with Finns they were the second part of the Molotov—Ribbentrop treaty that actually shaped the beginning of the WWII.

It is very pity that Rothbard displayed such a naїve and blatantly wrong views on the matters of the Soviet Foreign policy.

I recommend everybody to read “New Lies for Old” and other books by Anatoliy Golitsyn to get a better understanding of difference between communist theory and practice.

newson February 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm

to understand why a hostile elite avenged itself on the russian population, i’d recommend stalin’s willing executioners.
http://is.gd/FuKtGe

Dagnytg February 2, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Victor,
Jonas didn’t give many details to his make believe world. He wanted to know how an Ancap society might liberate a totalitarian society. I was only addressing that issue.

If it makes you feel better, I did consider that a totalitarian neighbor might resort to violence. But, since the parameters were wide open, I based my assumption on a post 20th century Ancap society (not an early 20th century agricultural, non-technological society you described bordering Russia). My Ancap society was well developed and flourishing as well as technologically advanced.

I concluded a well developed Ancap society of the post 20th century would be difficult to conquer (due to its superior economy and henceforth, technology); also it would not be in the economic interest of the totalitarian society who most likely would have to trade with it out of necessity.

Note:
Communist (revolutions or expansions) have only occurred in underdeveloped, agricultural societies.

Rothbard’s analysis is not unique-it is exactly what I was taught in college.

You and some others on this thread misinterpret Rothbard’s point. It’s very simple:
It’s not the spreading of communism that motivated Russia. It’s nation-state preservation. That’s all he was saying.

(I do not think Rothbard sees that as an excuse for the atrocities that have occurred under communist regimes.)

Bob February 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm

“From the very beginning the bolshevik state was constructed as a totalitarian terrorist organization with absolutely no respect to human dignity and private property.”

Which explains why the USSR’s actual capabilities to dominate beyond its bloc were so severely limited. An internally totalitarian state is far less likely to generate sufficient wealth to sustain a massive armed force capable of rampaging throughout the world. This explains, for example, why the USSR collapsed about a decade after commencing its occupation of Afghanistan while the USA–internally far more liberal by comparison–has had the wealth to sustain more than a thousand bases all over the world in something like 175 countries while maintaining simultaneously the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq in addition to numerous other foreign military adventures in the past and present(…at least for now–Who knows if the US gov’t will have any wealth to suck into its military machine for much longer?).

See Hans-Hermann Hoppe:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/hoppe/hoppe17.html

Also, I think some of the commenters here should go back and re-read this particular section of Rothbard’s piece, perhaps several times in order for it to sink in:

“In deciding on relative rights and wrongs, on relative degrees of aggression, in any dispute in foreign affairs, there is no substitute for a detailed, empirical, historical investigation of the dispute itself. It should occasion no great surprise, then, if such an investigation concludes that a democratic and relatively far freer United States has been more aggressive and imperialistic in foreign affairs than a relatively totalitarian Russia or China. Conversely, hailing a state for being less aggressive in FOREIGN affairs in NO WAY implies that the observer is in any way sympathetic to that state’s INTERNAL record.”

Victor February 4, 2011 at 5:07 am

This explains, for example, why the USSR collapsed about a decade after commencing its occupation of Afghanistan…

No, it does not explain it even a bit. The USSR has lived through much worse economic times but still survived and even become stronger. It is a great fallacy to think that the economic troubles were the determining reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

And invasion into Afghanistan was not the only thing that happened during a decade prior to collapse. There was also a miserable sequence of deaths of the highest leaders: Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko died in a matter of several years. Perestroika, Glasnost and Gorbachev liberalization also contributed to destabilization of the Union.

There are much more reasons to say that the liberal nature of the US is the reason why it is inherently more stable than the totalitarian USSR.

Sione February 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Well said Bob.

Fair enough.

Sione

Victor February 4, 2011 at 7:19 am

The claim that the communist ideology teaches communist mob to behave intelligent to have civil manners is nothing else than a complete ignorance. Here are several quotes by the prominent communist leaders of the world:

”All the parties of capitalist society, all its moralists and all its sycophants will perish beneath the debris of the impending catastrophe. The only party that will survive is the party of the world socialist revolution…”

Leon Trotsky (“Moralists and Sycophants Against Marxism,” New International, August 1939

“I know how much the German nation loves its Fuhrer; I should therefore like to drink to his health.”

Joseph Stalin (John Lukacs, June 1941: Hitler and Stalin [Yale University Press 2006], p. 55)

“We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.”

Mao Zedong (Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story [Jonathan Cape, 2005], pp. 457-8)

“We are doing what Lenin did. You cannot build socialism without Red Terror.”

Asrat Destu, Ethiopian army political commissar (Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB and the World [Penguin, 2006], pp. 467-8)

Here you can read more and make your own conclusion whether it is really worth resisting the onmarch of this blood-thirsty barbarian mob with all the legitimate means available, or is it better to seat on the butt and watch as every other government in the world is overthrown by communist fanatics and their populace is cleansed and exterminated to create a new, soviet man.

Sione February 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Victor

Are you dishonest or merely obtuse?

Rothbard did not claim that communist ideology teaches communist mob to behave intelligently or to have civil manners. You dredged that nonsense up out of the fetid shallows of your own imagination. Silly lad!

In the posts you’ve posted on this thread you have consistently fail to argue the topic (that is, you have not addressed what it was that Rothbard actually wrote). Instead you raise red herring after red herring, substituting your rote recitations for the fundamental topic. Then, figuring no-one’s noticed the swap, you assert that Rothbard was wrong. Fact is you have not demonstrated anything like that at all. What you have demonstrated is that you are being delusional, mired in wishful thinking and poor understanding.

Communism is indeed a despicable and criminal ideology (one which Rothbard did not support), but if you intend to attempt a refutation of Rothbard’s analysis of it (in particular the foreign policy the Soviet leadership prosecuted), then you’ll need to address the very topic. It’s all very well to assert he was mistaken, but you have failed to provide support for your assertion.

Best advice for you is, go back and read what he wrote. Think on it this time. See if you can grasp the points he is making.

Sione

Victor February 5, 2011 at 4:26 pm

You’ve asked: here we go.

in any conflict, that state which is more democratic or allows more internal freedom is necessarily or even presumptively the victim of aggression by the more dictatorial or totalitarian state. There is simply no historical evidence whatever for such a presumption.

Earlier in the article he mentions how soviets conquered and occupied other nations that dared to split from the illegal soviet gang: Ukraine, and later Finland, Poland, Belarus and others. More democratic and internally free nations fell victim to the totalitarian and militaristic mob that was later reframed to be called Soviet Union.

But the gravest and the biggest fallacy he commits is that he thinks that the soviet leaders adhere to the Marxist theory and that the Marxist theory somehow implies peace-loving nations.First of all, Marxist theory is militarist, radically nihilist.Second, bolshevik gangsters used the Marxist demagogue to shield their evil deeds and via the populism to temporary win support of the masses. They never meant to adhere to this theory nor they believed it. Even Marxists themselves criticized and proved unmarxism of the soviet state.

Other than that, it is highly hypocritical of an anarcho-capitalist to say that it is normal for a criminal gang first to murder the Russian Czar, declare complete and total breakup with the czarist past and then murder thousands of innocent people (even with chemical weapons) to restore power over the imaginary lines projected on the ground.

The soviet criminals also trained and sponsored various terrorist mobs all over the world, including CPUSA. Murdering almost 100 million people all over the world.

His apologetic and warm appeal towards comrade Stalin made me fill sick. It appears now that the man who killed over ten million of his own citizens was so kind and civil… And I am not even mentioning the so called Sino-Soviet “split”…

If anything, Rothbard had to call this article “Soviet Foreign policy. A Soviet Propaganda Perspective“.

Sione February 7, 2011 at 2:37 am

Victor

You write: “You’ve asked”

No, I didn’t ask for yet another helping of regurgitation from you. What i did was recommend you stop substituting your self-generated nonsense for the points Rothbard actually raised. I did recommend you go back and re-read what he actually wrote and you, “Think on it this time. See if you can grasp the points he is making.” Clearly you are incapable. What a pillock.

You quote, “in any conflict, that state which is more democratic or allows more internal freedom is necessarily or even presumptively the victim of aggression by the more dictatorial or totalitarian state. There is simply no historical evidence whatever for such a presumption.”

Didn’t you read that before you cut and pasted? I mean, really read and then consider what it means. Can’t you get it into your tiny wee mind? Is it that woefully difficult? Really, it isn’t. All you need to be able to do is read, comprehend and think.

Look, Rothbard’s point is that in the situation where two states are in conflict (cold or hot), the fact that one particular state is more democratic (or allows more internal freedom) than its opponent does not mean that said state is necessarily the victim of external aggression from its less democratic (or less internally free) opponent. He points out that such a supposition is not historically justified, hence is invalid. In other words, one should not accept the premise that democratic states or states which allow a greater measure of internal freedom are less aggressive externally than are non-democratic states or states which allow less internal freedom. Is that REALLY too difficult for you to grasp?

There is no need for you to make up fibs and substitute them for what Rothbard wrote. Really, you are full of it- a real crock of shit.

You write, “Earlier in the article he mentions how soviets conquered and occupied other nations that dared to split from the illegal soviet gang: Ukraine, and later Finland, Poland, Belarus and others.”

You are being very dishonest. For goodness sake consider what the man wrote and stop substituting your idiocy. Rothbard states that the Soviets sought to retain territory which had been under Russian governance.

In the case of Belarus, Ukraine etc., these were already part of Russian territory. It wasn’t only the Soviets who acknowledged that either. Note that Pres F Roosevelt recognised the Soviets as the valid government for all (greater) Russia. That official recognition included the entire territory the Soviets controlled at the time.

Poland was called into existence by the victorious Western Allies at the termination of WW1. The territory that it occupied had been German (Prussian) and Russian. The Soviet objective was to get back what they considered theirs. That is, regain part of Russia. That was their policy and that’s exactly what Rothbard describes

“But the gravest and the biggest fallacy he commits is that he thinks that the soviet leaders adhere to the Marxist theory and that the Marxist theory somehow implies peace-loving nations.”

You are not a very good liar. Rothbard does not state that Marxist Theory somehow implies peace-loving nations. That notion is something you dredged out of your own shallow (and fetid) imagination.

Rothbard points out that the Soviet leadership were aware of the military and economic weakness of their position. They proceeded conservatively, as their first priority was to retain and consolidate power over what they already controlled. They were well aware of how risky war was and how easily they could be unseated by engaging in it. In this regard they were coldly pragmatic. For goodness sake, read what the man actually wrote about this.

“Other than that, it is highly hypocritical of an anarcho-capitalist to say that it is normal for a criminal gang first to murder the Russian Czar, declare complete and total breakup with the czarist past and then murder thousands of innocent people (even with chemical weapons) to restore power over the imaginary lines projected on the ground.”

You are not very good at playing the liar. Rothbard didn’t write it was normal (in the sense that ir was good) for a criminal gang to commit murder. He did not consider such action moral or desirable at all. This is another example of you substituting self-generated nonsense for what Rothbard actually wrote. You should cease and desist with this very poor habit you’ve fallen into.

“The soviet criminals also trained and sponsored various terrorist mobs all over the world, including CPUSA.”

And? This does not rebut Rothbard’s contention. What he describes is how the Soviets acted in regards to territorial expansion and international foreign policy. He does mention that the Soviet foreign policy changed markedly after the German invasion and he discloses why… Anyway, Rothbard wasn’t in favour of communism and the govt of the USSR in case you hadn’t noticed. If you had, well be honest, stop pretending he was supporting communism or the Soviets.

By the way, you ought to consider very carefully what sort of criminal and terrorist mobs the US govt trained all over the world. It isn’t only the USSR that got up to that sort of thing.

“His apologetic and warm appeal towards comrade Stalin made me fill sick.”

Your dishonesty is what makes you sick. You reek of it.

“It appears now that the man who killed over ten million of his own citizens was so kind and civil…”

Kind and civil? Again you are substituting the dishonest sewerage that pools in your mind for what Rothbard actually wrote. Do everyone a favour and shut off the outfall. Keep your crap to yourself.

Sione

Victor February 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Rothbard states that the Soviets sought to retain territory which had been under Russian governance.

Before insulting others you could go and educate yourself: bolsheviks were a closed, totalitarian gang, a religious sect, they had absolutely no legitimacy. Claiming a right to govern the people of the Moscow empire on their behalf is already an insane heresy. Their power even over historical and ethnically russian territories is illegitimate, not to speak of the national minorities of empire!

Saying that it was their internal and legitimate business to impose their power over the nations of the former empire by committing mass atrocities is almost the same as saying that the Nazis had absolutely all rights and should be let to murder every living Jew and then every other Untermensch.

And yes, I am impressed by your appeal to the authority of the FDR… after that I see no reason to continue this discussion.

newson February 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm

“closed, totalitarian gang, a religious sect…”. not quite, but close.
http://is.gd/8mJqfB

Krzysztof Ostaszewski April 20, 2011 at 11:48 am

The trouble with this piece is that while it contains quite brilliant ideas, it is simply factually wrong, and strangely inconsistent. For example, Rothbard claims that the Soviet Union was peaceful in signing the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty and giving up vast territory, but then he supports legitimacy of subsequent invasion of those territories. That peace treaty was a logical tactical move of the Soviets, they were weak and sought a form of temporary reprieve until they could rearm and kill off internal opposition. Once those objectives were achieved, the nations of Eastern Europe that were temporarily freed from the Prison of Nations that Russia had been, were reinvaded to be brought into the Gulag of Nations that the Soviet Union became. Additionally, Rothbard mysteriously claims that Poland invaded the Soviet Union, whereas Poland (mistakenly, as the history shows) never attempted to attack or claim any territory that had not belonged to Poland previously, and the crucial battle of the war of 1920 took place in Warsaw. That’s Warsaw, Poland, that was being invaded by Soviet troops, on their way to further conquest of Germany, their strategic objective. Only the miracle of Polish mathematicians breaking the Soviet codes stopped the Soviets in the 1920 battle of Warsaw. Much of Rothbard’s thoughts are really worthy of consideration, even when he is wrong, as he mostly is, in this case. I remember listening to Rothbard justifying his support for Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwarter, and he was equally wrong, and I felt that he knew that he was wrong, but had to hold the line, arguing that Goldwater made an unacceptable threat of using nuclear weapons. Good argument, but not based in reality — as in reality it was the Soviets who used that threat to keep their empire intact, especially against Eastern and Central Europe.

Rothbard repeatedly claims in this piece that because the Soviets were careful and calculated in their foreign policy, they could not have been wild-eyed crazy world-domination extremists. That is very true — while they were pitiful in economic calculation, they were skillful in political calculation. But the objective of world domination was always on their minds. And they always used soft power first, and hard power of war only after they could not achieve their objective softly, or when military success appeared certain in their calculation. But being calculating in affairs of state is not evidence of peaceful pursuits, it was simply their acknowledgement of the realities of power balance of the moment. Without a powerful economy at their back, they had to be competent at something to achieve the superpower status they once had.

But the idea that any Soviet leadership had any peaceful intent or content is not supported by any facts. The Soviet Union’s foreign policy can be described as the opposite of that of Switzerland. Switzerland remains (ideally at least) neutral and somewhat separated from the world, without any goals or intent of aggression, but ready to defend itself with all of its resources no matter what the balance of power. The Soviet Union was always ready to attack, whenever an opportunity appeared, with the objective of ultimate conquest always firmly in place, while always ready to offer temporary peace when the balance of power was not in its favor.

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