||Did the USSR have any choice?||Page 10|
Some people argue that the Soviet Union had no choice; they were forced to engage fully in the arms race. According to this argument, the massive commitment of Soviet technology, production capital, and administrative-command methods were unavoidable in order to confront the invasions after the Revolution, the invasion by Hitler's armies, and the Cold War threats of the U.S. and its allies. In other words, it is said that war communism was forced upon them.
It's not as though the Soviets ever really made an informed choice. As far as I can tell, up to the present, there has never been a public discussion of the issues we are considering, in particular, the economic costs of the arms race. Even today, as the Soviets criticize their past under Stalin, Brezhnev, and even Lenin, there seems to be very little discussion of the extent to which the arms race contributed to their difficulties.
Had there been a full discussion, what alternatives could have been offered? Of course, the most important is the world condemnation and defeat of imperialism and establishment of disarmament. But, in the meantime, socialism must be defended. We should analyze more carefully the victory of the Vietnamese, made possible by resistance of the entire population without access to high-tech weaponry, and by the eventual weight of anti- imperialist mobilizations around the world.
In this regard, we can take a lesson from the General Secretary of the Communist Party of El Salvador, Shafik Jorge Handal. His comments are all the more remarkable when one realizes he is a member of the FMLN General Command which is locked in one of the bloodiest military struggles in recent times:
Looking to the future, in view of recent world experience and our own experience in El Salvador, we are convinced that democracy, respect for human rights and, above all, economic developments are all incompatible with militarism. That is certainly the experience of the superpowers. Those of you who live here (in the U.S.) know that the weight of the arms race has held back the development of civilian technology, it has aggravated the economic crisis, the budget deficit and the trade deficit, and it has justified cutbacks in social services. And in the Soviet Union, which started at a much lower level of development, even given their different system, the end result was the same or worse, thanks to the arms race. All the countries in the world that entered the arms race, without exception, have seen the same results, regardless of their political and social system. And all the countries that were barred from the arms race after World War II, those defeated in the war or for whatever reason not able or willing to enter the arms race, those countries are the ones that are in the forefront of economic development today. This is the lesson of our century and we must learn it well.(24)