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The Soviet Study of International Relations.

The Soviet Study of International Relations. Allen Lynch. Cambridge University Press, $34.50. Like Honda, Marx and Lenin made it simple: In the competition to sell their goods abroad, the capitalist nations would eventually go to war and destroy each other, and the workers of the world would rise up and unite in a glorious socialist brotherhood.

Bound by the straitjacket of dogma, Soviet analyses of international relations have not usually been taken seriously by western scholars. With the death of Stalin, it became somewhat less dangerous to life and limb for Soviet social scientists to look around and write about how the world had changed since Marx and Lenin. They couldn't, of course, repudiate the teachings of the gods upon which the communist state was founded. So they cloaked--and were allowed to cloak--their heresies under the new science of "creative Leninism."

Allen Lynch, a fellow of the Institute for East-West Security Studies, assesses the mixed success of the newer approach.

Several developments have made it necessary for Soviet leaders to accept what their social scientists have been hinting at for some time: > In the nuclear age, the capitalist countries are not going to war with each other, and if they did, it would be hazardous to the health of any socialist onlookers; therefore, the idea of the inevitable triumph of socialism as a result of the "imperialists" self-destructing is nonsense. > The capitalist countries are not doomed by internal contradictions and, in fact, will be around for a long time--perhaps centuries. > In spite of Lenin's view that in a socialist order peace would prevail, the greatest threat to the security of the Soviet Union may turn out to be not the United States but its socialist neighbor--and Russia's historical enemy--China.

They see the United States as the fulcrum of both the Japan-U.S.-Europe economic powerhouse and, of the China-U.S.-Soviet strategic teeter-totter. (They also see the irony of the U.S., because of the loss in Vietnam, redressing the balance by developing its rapport with China.) And even in the Third World, Soviet influence has brought questionable results, with an increasing awareness in Third World countries of the limitations of the Soviet model. The superpower relationship remains at the core of world politics, but it is greatly modified by the polycentrism that has emerged. All in all, it's a globe on which there is no easy way for the Soviets to extend their influence.

But while Soviet social scientists are somewhat freer to look at relations with the capitalist nations, relations among the socialist nations are still corsetted. Before Gorbachev, Soviet officialdom found it difficult to entertain any notion about diverging trends within the Soviet alliance and was particularly resistant to the idea that nationalism plays any role within the East bloc. Privately, Soviet social scientists conceded that all was not beer and skittles within the bloc. But in their journals they droned on about "nonantagonistic contradictions"--which is how the dispute with the Chinese Communist Party was politely described.

And so, dogma continues to cloud thought. Scholars have noted that what has been absent from the history of Marxist thought is a credible portrayal of the power of nationalism among all classes. To which Lynch adds: "As long as Soviet analysis...refuses to take nationalism seriously, it must be considered fundamentally flawed." That assessment would appear to be a model of restraint.

Lynch's study ends just as the Gorbachev era gets underway, but in recent months it has become obvious that the Soviet foreign policy apparatus is undergoing a major overhaul. Since the start of Gorbachev's reign, upwards of 75 ambassadors have been replaced, presumably by counterparts more attuned to fresher winds. Gorbachev has repeatedly called for Soviet academics and scientists to join in foreign policy deliberations--which one would hope is an invitation to them to put reality above orthodoxy. It remains to be seen whether glasnost will mean that Soviet social scientists will earn some respect in the West as well.
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Author:Reed, Leonard
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1988
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