Prospect of Russia Emerging as Global Economic Shock
It is now universally acknowledged that no country can survive on its own. Experience underscores the imperative for a country to establish relations with other nations. Thus, if the Soviet Union cannot maintain economic progress under autarchy, it would be impelled to search for foreign markets to dispose of its industrial surplus. This became abundantly evident during the war when the Soviet Union had to rely heavily on imports of essential goods from America and Great Britain. If it maintains its pace of industrialisation, the Soviet Union would have to find new markets for its products. When that day arrives, would the Russian policy not assume the same characteristics and adopt the same methods as we have seen in the history of other imperial powers? To put it plainly, Russia would be compelled to make other countries, by some means or other, to buy Russian products in order to keep its labour employed and sustain its economic and industrial growth.
Experience of Other Imperialist Powers
We have seen that when it concerns granting India independence, rousing speeches are made in the Houses of Parliament, but when it concerns economic progress, the experts start pronouncing on the need for protecting British interests. No doubt, Russia’s case would be quite similar, though with one important difference: in the case of Great Britain and America it is the private firms that compete, but in the case of Russia it will be the entire socialist system that would compete with the individual foreign trader. It will not willingly close its factories and allow unemployment to rise in the face of foreign competition, but it will adopt all means to make other countries buy its products. And it will direct the entire might of its state—which owns factories and wields total political power—towards achieving that end. The economically weak neighbouring countries would be particularly vulnerable to Soviet pressure. At that point, Russia would use all the tactics that the big investors employ under capitalism. Since industry in Russia is under State control, the clout of political power will also be wielded. At that stage, Russia would not just be concerned with protecting its commercial interests, it would also seek to raise the standard of its industry, protect its labour and factories, and attract foreign capital.
Thus, the neighbouring economies would end up opening their economies to Soviet goods, as they did for the Western capitalists. But this time it would be a bigger economic shock for the world. Sometimes an argument is made that vulnerable countries could escape the onslaught of Russian competition by becoming allies of the Soviet Union and gain all the advantages of the communist system. But a little reflection would establish that this idea is not sound. In the first place, we should not forget that not many countries would put aside all other considerations and rush to join the Soviet Union simply to capture some economic gains. The Communists in various countries would, of course, be glad to see the Soviet system introduced everywhere, but it seems doubtful that many would submit their economies to Russian dictates. This would apply to Communists in Great Britain and America and to those of practically every other country. They have a preference, no doubt, for the Soviet system, but they are not eager at all to let Moscow run their country’s affairs. I cannot say anything about the thinking of Indian communists.
We know from experience that they are not given to thinking through important issues and, generally, are not well-educated. They are fond of sloganeering, but few understand the implications of their slogans. Many put thought and reflection aside and get carried away by their emotions. It is possible that a large majority of the Indian Communists would not object to India being absorbed into the Soviet Union, but Communists in the rest of the world are not so inclined, and believe that such a situation would bring about ruin and destruction for their countries.
Absence of Equality in Russian Occupied Territories
We should also observe that the quality of life enjoyed by European Russians differs significantly from that of people living in the Soviet territories outside Europe. I would meet all expenses if the Communist Party were to let one member of my Community visit the Soviet Union and show him that the poor in Bukhara have everything that the poor in Moscow have, in terms of housing, clothing, food, education and medical care. I am sure an inspection of life in the two towns would show that there is an appalling difference in the degree of well-being enjoyed by their inhabitants. The same observation applies to the other Russian territories in Asia.
Only recently, an official announcement was made regarding schemes to ameliorate conditions in these territories, and that a special programme would be devised for future progress there. This statement should help to dispel the delusion that Soviet Russia treats its Asian citizens as well as its European citizens. Had this been so, the European and Asian territories of the Soviet Union would have reached a similar economic status. Some people believe that because Communism is based on the principle of equality, the system would not betray itself by usurping the rights of the weak. This idea is no more than a delusion. The Russian reticence till now in economic competition and in the scramble for foreign territories has not been due to any ethical sense of right or wrong, but simply from its inability to assert its power. These policies will undergo a radical transformation as soon as it becomes strong enough to impose its will. In fact, the change can already be observed. So long as Russia was preoccupied with domestic politics, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were free and independent. Russia boasted that it did not get involved in the internal affairs of other countries and that in pursuit of liberation, it had granted independence to all countries that so desired—namely Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Finland, Poland, and Georgia.
It had also handed over Turkey a portion of Armenia that was originally a part of Turkey. But as soon as domestic unrest abated, Georgia was incorporated into the Soviet Union. On gaining further strength, it started to dispute Finland’s border. This process continued until the Soviet Union came to occupy Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Portions of Romania too were nibbled off, and Finland was overpowered and some parts of it were incorporated into the Soviet Union, leaving the rest of the country independent. Poland is being quietly appropriated now. Russia has proclaimed publicly that a government that does not support its policies would not be tolerated at its borders. Only governments that are prepared to remain loyal and subservient to Moscow can remain in power in these countries. Under the cloak of security, there has been Russian interference in the affairs of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania. Schemes have been set afoot to grab the oil fields in Persia. Turkey is being called upon to hand back portions of Armenia ceded to it earlier and Moscow has openly sought control of the Dardanelles.
Did the old imperial governments do anything different in their days of glory? Did they not, in fact, proceed more gently and tactfully? Were they not less blunt and less brutal? To be sure, Great Britain too has had an interest in the Dardanelles for a long time, but it never applied the degree of pressure on Turkey as Russia has done in just a few years. With this evidence, it is not wise to believe that Russia would not force its neighbouring countries into economic subjugation in the same way as the European traders did with the help of their governments. Events have proved that as soon as Russia gained power, its claims of political equality and freedom went by the board. There is now no basis for accepting Russia’s claim that it has no interest in other countries. Upon entering the world of politics, Communism changed its ideology and disregarded its own principles in favour of advancing its own interests. Georgia, Bokhara, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have all been occupied and brought under its political authority. Schemes are being prepared to gain influence in Iran and Turkey, and for the break-up of China. Can the occupation and subjugation of these countries be called equality and freedom of conscience? Why would Finland permit that a part of its territory be absorbed into Russia? Why was the freedom of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia trampled underfoot? Why was it necessary that these countries should sacrifice their own independence to safeguard White Russia? Was it incumbent upon Georgia and Bokhara to get incorporated into the Russian empire? If this was for the cause of liberty and freedom, why did the opposite not take place? Why was not a part of Russia handed over to Finland, and other parts given to Poland, Romania, Turkey and Iran to strengthen their defences? Surely, from the viewpoint of security, these smaller countries merited additional territory more than Russia did. The fact is that Russia remained non-aggressive only as long as it lacked the power. Once it gained the power, Russia did not hesitate to devour the smaller states on grounds that it needed to strengthen its borders. If this were a valid reason, it could also be used by America to justify retaining control over the Japanese Islands.
The reality is that those with power can always present excuses to justify their actions; as they say, ‘might is right.’ Given this record of Russian approach in international politics, how can we hope that Russia would take a more egalitarian and just approach in the economic sphere? For those who think that political decisions are different [from economic decisions] the question can be posed differently: if Russia really loves equity why does it seek to occupy Iran’s oil fields? Is this fair to Iran, considering that the country itself needs oil to support its poor and hungry people? If the interests and welfare of the weak have any value in Russia’s eyes, as the Communists claim, then Russia should have, for example, lent money to Iran free of interest so that Iran could develop its oil resources. It should be obvious, then, that the objective of Russia is to deprive Iran of the benefit of its oil fields to promote its own interests. Some people argue that the British too have taken possession of Iran’s oil fields. This is not a good argument, because the wrong done by one does not justify the same for someone else. If Britain is to be condemned for its actions, one should also condemn Russia. Russian actions demonstrate that its policies are in reality no different from the policies followed by other imperial powers. If Russia subscribes to the principle of equality, it should hand over the oilfields of Baku to Iran on the ground that Iran must have the same rights as Russia. But Russia has no interest in such ‘equality’. Russia is still at an early stage of industrialisation. When it has advanced, we can expect to see that it would promote its industrial interests in other countries in a manner that has not been witnessed before. The reason is that Communism has only crushed individual capitalism, but it has nurtured and promoted collective capitalism, which is a very dangerous development. America passed antitrust laws precisely to curb this kind of development.