The Soviet Union: Socialist or Social Imperialist?

[Note: The original link to the document died.  We’ve update it below.]

[Edit: The attached document is vol.1 of a 2 volume work.  We will post the 2nd volume ASAP.]

In 1983 the RCP-USA published a collection of essays by various academics on the role of the Soviet Union in the world and the nature of Soviet society called The_Soviet_Union:_Socialist_or_Social-imperialist?

Was the Soviet Union a progressive, anti-imperialist force in the world or was it’s contradiction with the United States based on inter-imperialist rivalry?  Was the Soviet Union a socialist society or had capitalist social relations returned within the form of collective ownership?

Even though the Soviet Union is long gone, this is not just an important historical question.  How we apply Marxism to our understanding of social relations within various societies and how we conceive of the revolutionary process effects how we understand and how we engage in the struggles of today.  For example, can a country be “kinda socialist”?  Is there anything socialist about the welfare state?  If a capitalist state nationalizes a factory does that bring us any closer to socialism?  What exactly are we fighting for?

2 thoughts on “The Soviet Union: Socialist or Social Imperialist?

  1. I think yes, the soviet union was a socialist country, but socialism if we understand it as the lower stage of communism, in which some forms of capitalist relations continue to exist, not as ‘whatever good things we want.’ I don’t think the term social imperialism is that useful of a term. Along with other negative changes in the 1960’s soviet society ‘specialization’ of smaller socialist economies, sometimes to the benefit of the ussr was definitely a reality. Should we then characterize the soviet economic system as a ‘social imperialist’ rather than socialist one, as something truly of a different breed? No. As a maoist today i find it necessary to do away with some of the phrases and theories that came out of the sino soviet split. We need to drop the phrase socialism altogether I think. We want communism, we want to build communism, and especially with the level of productive forces which exist now we should never aim to linger in socialism.

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