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Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 09:30:31 -0500

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Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 08:29:51 -0500
Subject: [WW] USSR's impact on national liberation

USSR's impact on national liberation

By Pat Chin, Workers World, 15 January 2004

[From a talk by Pat Chin to the Dec. 6-7 New York conference on reviving the struggle for socialism.]

When the Soviet Union was born in 1917, most of the world was colonized by the U.S., the British, French, Dutch, Belgians, Spanish, etc. But the existence of a huge socialist state changed the world relationship of forces. This happened in large part because the Bolshevik revolution, as the social and economic rival to Western imperialism, provided the space in which countries were able to win independence.

At the Baku Congress of 1918, organized by leaders of the Russian Revolution, Lenin renounced all imperialist treaties and called for the liberation of the world's colonies.

The Bolsheviks uncompromisingly supported the right of all nations to independence, even though they weren't able to give material aid until much later. The political line regarding the right to self-determination taken by the Soviet government and the Communist Inter national had a tremendous impact on oppressed countries.

The people in Iraq rose up against the British after that. There were anti-colonial uprisings all over the world, including in Korea in 1919. These struggles were all inspired by the fact that there was now a state that was a deterrent to imperialism and colonialism.

Soviets, or workers' councils, were formed in Cuba in that period and communist parties arose in all the oppressed countries--in South Africa, India, French-occupied Indochina, Dutch-ruled Indonesia, Sudan, Iraq, Vietnam and elsewhere. At the first congress of the Communist International, the slogan Workers and oppressed peoples of the world unite was adopted.

After World War II the Soviet Union became much stronger and was able to give more aid to the revolutionary movements in Southeast Asia and Korea. The country's emergence as a military power prevented the U.S. and the other imperialists from dominating the world. The fear of communism was, in fact, behind some de-colonization moves that were allowed. The imperialists felt pressured to pull out of Africa because of the anti-colonial struggles, for example, but would cunningly try to replace open colonialism with neo-colonialism.

When the first post-colonial regimes started to emerge in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the Soviet Union gave tremendous military and material support to even bourgeois regimes like Nasser's Egypt, and to Ghana, where Nkrumah became a communist but the Ghanaian state didn't.

This allowed these countries to carry out somewhat independent developmental policies that wouldn't have been possible with the world capitalist market. This was true of socialist countries like North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba in the 1960s, but also of bourgeois democratic regimes like Egypt and India, Ghana and the Congo, all of which had won formal independence from colonialism. For the first time they could trade on more equal terms due to the socialist nature of the Soviet economy and not be subjected to the boom-and-bust cycle of the capitalist system.

Imperialism and monopoly capitalism holds back even capitalist development in the oppressed countries, but the existence of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China provided more space for these countries to develop.

The Soviet Union, for example, built the first steel plant in India, which became the property of the Indian government. A strong capitalist class even developed there based on India's relationship with the USSR. They didn't have to bow down to the International Monetary Fund.

The Soviet Union also provided military aid. When Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt in 1956, they assisted Egypt. They even sent troops to Iraq to defend the Kassem revolution after the U.S. threatened a counter-revolutionary invasion. Lybia, Iraq, Syria and Ghana also got tremendous military assistance. Cuba was able to survive because of the military and economic relationship with the USSR. Soviet military aid had the greatest impact in relationship to the national liberation struggles in Cuba, Vietnam, Korea, Angola and Namibia.

Some people have criticized the Soviet Union for supporting capitalist governments in oppressed countries rather than working with the revolutionary forces. But the most important point is they weren't operating on an imperialist basis. The Soviet Union and the socialist camp had no interest in holding back development in any part of the world. It was in their interest to encourage the growth of the productive forces everywhere. The U.S., British and French capitalists didn't want this because they donwant competitors.

Patrice Lumumba of the Congo was murdered because the U.S. claimed he was trying to work with the Soviet Union. Lumumba had basically asked for economic assistance from that country. In 1962 the Patrice Lumumba University was founded in Moscow for students from so-called Third World countries. Free education in engineering, agriculture and other disciplines, over the course of Soviet history, had been provided for millions of students.

It wasn't just altruism on the part of the Soviet leadership because, even in the later period, development of the productive forces around the world was in their material interest.

When the Soviet Union collapsed it had a devastating economic impact on the countries that had once received its aid and assistance.

For Cuba it meant a special period of austerity. Vietnam was forced to let in Western capital. For India it meant opening up to harsh dictates from the IMF and World Trade Organization--privatizing state-owned industries, layoffs, cuts in social benefits, lowering of protective tariffs, and so on. In Central America the armed liberation movement was forced to compromise.

Some 90 countries have been forced to accept structural adjustment programs in the last 10 years by the forces of capitalist globalization. As a result there's been a huge surge in poverty, especially in Africa, South and Southeast Asia.