Soviet Legacy 100 Years on: Defeat of Nazi Germany, Boost for Global Progressive Forces

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Soviet Union
Soviet Union Credit: Flickr/ Серёжа Русский

As December 30 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Union, Sputnik spoke to political analysts to look back at the legacy it left behind for the world — from defeating Nazi Germany to spurring socioeconomic reforms in rival capitalist systems and contributing to the national liberation cause in former Western colonies.

LEAP FOR A ‘BACKWARD COUNTRY’

The major achievement of the Soviet Union was its position as an alternative to capitalism’s organization of the means of production and its opting out of intra-capitalist competition, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at California State University Beau Grosscup believes.

“In doing so, it initially stood as a beacon illustrating the progressive side of history,” he told Sputnik.

Canadian historian, political analyst and Rising Tide Foundation Vice President Matthew Ehret agreed that the establishment of the Soviet Union launched a major new chapter in world history.

“While at times oligarchists and proto-color revolutionaries used romantic ideological mobs to smash the edifices of the nation-state for geopolitical ends, at other times truly wise statesmen took the helm of the Soviet Union and brought the new empire into the modern age with vast electrification, modernization and a general elevation of the standards of life and mind of the citizens,” he said.

The Soviet system endured many crises, assaults and setbacks yet its achievements were still impressive, Ehret stated.

“Despite suffering through plagues of fifth columnists, neo-Trotskyist ideologues, cyberneticists and other dishonest players over the course of its short life span, the Soviet Union demonstrated at its best what a mobilized nation could accomplish to resist fascism, bankers’ dictatorships and poverty,” he said.

University of Louvain Professor of Political Philosophy Jean Bricmont identified three main accomplishments from the Soviet era.

They were, he said, “A rapid industrialization and modernization of a backward country, the victory over fascism during World War II [and] a substantial aid to colonized people in their national liberation struggles.”

However, Soviet industrialization and modernization were achieved at a “very large” human cost, the expert noted.

“But this has to be compared with the cost of the industrialization and modernization in Western countries, including the cost for colonized people and of the two world wars,” he observed.

WWII SACRIFICE

The Soviet military triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II was an achievement that saved and benefited the entire world, US political commentator and former hedge fund manager Charles Ortel recalled.

“Perhaps the most undersung achievement of the Soviet Union in Western circles is the huge sacrifice taken by millions to vanquish the Axis powers in World War II,” he said.

However, today, the scale of that achievement and the crucial, leading role of the Soviet Union and its peoples in winning that victory and suffering the enormous casualties it required are forgotten and ignored across the West, Ortel pointed out.

“Particularly in America, most of us fail to acknowledge far larger Soviet losses and casualties in that vital struggle,” he said.

Even after the repressive years of Joseph Stalin’s rule, the Soviet people set an example of courage, bravery and military success that inspired the world, US constitutional historian and political commentator Dan Lazare said.

“Despite Stalin, Russia still had enough high idealism left over from the October Revolution to beat back the Nazi onslaught in 1941-45. We are all in debt to the heroes of Stalingrad — not to Stalin himself, but to all the ‘Ivans,’ the Soviet equivalents of GI Joe – who saved humanity by fighting house to house and even room to room,” he said.

SOCIOECONOMIC IMPACT ON THE WORLD

After victory over the Nazis in 1945, the core values that inspired the Soviet peoples played a central, driving role in improving the lives, hopes, aspirations and prospects of billions of people around the world in succeeding generations, Lazare continued.

“The most reactionary society on earth was suddenly the most advanced, while in Europe ministers hastened to approve unemployment insurance and other welfare benefits for fear of being murdered by reds in their bed,” he said.

“After the war, it was the USA-Soviet condominium that made possible ‘les trentes glorieuses,’ [the 30 glorious years of world economic growth from 1945 to 1973/75] – The great leap forward in terms of social and economic well-being that transformed global society,” the expert continued.

All the achievements of the Civil Rights movement for black equality in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s were only possible because of the pressures of intense scrutiny of US society in the context of American global competition with the Soviet Union, Lazare pointed out.

“The United States would never have integrated the public schools if the Soviet Union had not blasted the news of American racial inequity through the newly-emerging nations of the Third World,” he said.

LIMITS OF PLANNED ECONOMY, RIGID SYSTEM

As all societies do, Soviet achievements and expansion eventually came to their limits and also faced strong hostile external counterforces, Grosscup observed.

Ultimately, the Soviet system proved rigid and repressive, with the command economy unable to function without the total control of party officials, President of the American University in Moscow Professor Edward Lozansky pointed out.

“Nevertheless, the Soviet Union managed to survive for 69 years, despite the civil war, great terror, and huge devastation caused by World War II,” he added.

The Soviet system could have endured for a longer period of time if not for some other factors that developed during the 1980s, Lozansky explained.

“Actually, it could continue to exist for some time but several factors like the arms race with the West, economic inefficiency and, most importantly, the [first and last Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev factor who naively tried to combine communism with freedom, ended this experiment,” he said.

RUSSIA OF TODAY

On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist, soon after the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belovezh Accords, declaring the USSR dissolved.

“Its largely peaceful dissolution into numerous republics is something few would have predicted. And the transition out of Communism while economically painful was just that, a transition to a better end state with Russia progressing from basket case to stellar performing member of the G8 [Group of Eight major industrialized nations],” former ambassador, veteran UK diplomat and political commentator Peter Ford told Sputnik.

For this, Russia could not be forgiven by the West, Ford believes.

“Western observers, many of whom had hoped for a total dismantlement of Soviet power, watched with dismay as Russia emerged from its testing transition to pick up the reins from the old superpower, particularly the military reins,” he said.

Ortel agreed that modern Russia has developed a range of achievements and technologies inherited from the Soviet Union.

The present Russia is trying to find an “intermediate system between the old planned one and the pure capitalism that dominated the country in the 1990s and ruined it,” Bricmont observed.

What it kept from the old system is its hostility to neo-colonial practices, and that is why Russia is not isolated in the world, despite the conflict in Ukraine, he pointed out.

“Not without reason Western hawks saw Russia as a growing obstacle to Western world domination, as a pole of opposition and an encouragement to the Global South. They have accordingly tried to exploit part of the old Soviet legacy to undermine Russia,” Bricmont said.

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