US, as in USSR

yaltaIn their 1992 book The Fascist Sword Was Forged in the USSR, Russian historians Y. Diakov and T. Bushyeva proved, documents in hand, that Hitler wouldn’t have been able to rebuild his army without Stalin’s help.

But where was the Soviet sword forged? After all, the 1917 revolution and subsequent civil war destroyed Russia’s nascent industry, and Russia was supposedly surrounded by implacable enemies.

The 1928 Five-Year Plan inaugurated a drive towards industrialisation, but the pack seemed to be stacked against the USSR. It clearly couldn’t industrialise without Western, specifically American, help, which seemingly wasn’t forthcoming. The US didn’t even recognise the USSR until 1933.

However, a miracle occurred: by the late 1930s Russia had created by far the best-equipped army in the world. For example, the Red Army had more tanks than the rest of the world combined, and the quality of those machines was such that no other country was able even to approach it until the war was almost over.

How did Russia work such a miracle in just 10 years? There’s a perfectly rational explanation: American businessmen systematically built up the Soviet war machine.

And the US administration did nothing to stop a flow of armaments and other strategic supplies even when Stalin’s Russia was allied with Nazi Germany between 23 August, 1939, and 22 June, 1941. Moreover, no political or economic conditions for aid were imposed. The US administration was so obliging that the Soviets didn’t even have to steal military technology.

For example, the best Soviet tanks BT-7M, T-34 and KV were based on the American M1931 tank designed by Walter Christie, whose work was underappreciated in his native land.

In 1930 the Soviets bought two M1931s complete with specifications, spare parts and production rights, put them in boxes marked as tractors and shipped them home. This at a time when the Soviet Union was not only barred from obtaining war materials in the United States but wasn’t even diplomatically recognised by America.

It’s clear that the US government, while playing hard to get in the diplomatic arena, acted on its inbred pecuniary imperative in areas that counted. An enemy to American people could well be a friend to American businessmen.

In 1929 the Americans built the Stalingrad ‘tractor’ factory, then Europe’s largest tank manufacturer. The entire facility was built as modules in the United States, transported across the Atlantic on 100 ships and re-assembled in Stalingrad by American technicians.

Later, Americans cloned the Stalingrad plant in Cheliabinsk and Kharkov. It was in those plants that Christie’s designs were adopted and turned into the greatest tank force the world had ever known.

It wasn’t just tanks either. Between 1930 and 1940, the Americans created Soviet chemical, aircraft, electrical, oil, mining, coal, steel and other industries.

During that decade Americans built 1,500 Soviet factories. The labour force was mostly made up of GULAG slaves, organised and managed by US engineers, 200,000 of whom were working in the USSR. Many of them ended up in the GULAG themselves, with the US government doing nothing to secure their return.

It wasn’t just US engineers but also teachers who helped the Soviets out of their self-inflicted misery. American academics trained 300,000 qualified technical personnel, practically the entire management class of Soviet industry.

Hence there was nothing miraculous about that industrial miracle. It was made possible by US expertise and Soviet slave labour, a combination that surely must raise some moral questions.

Why did the US government allow that outrage? The argument that in a free country the government can’t tell businessmen where to invest doesn’t cut much ice. Any government can stop the flow of strategic materials to a potential enemy, and US laws, like those of any Western country, contained sufficient provisions for such action.

Such questions have more than just historical significance. Russia is again in the midst of a massive militarisation programme, and again she heavily depends on Western technologies and finance.

To mention one significant detail, among thousands, the Russians don’t make their own computers. They’re using American products to wage electronic war on America, and prepare to paralyse her communications if the new cold war gets warmer.

And yet, some derisory post-Crimean sanctions apart, today’s US administration talks tough but, just like FDR back in the 1930s, does nothing to defang the Russian military beast growing to maturity. Why?

Any modern government finds it congenitally hard to look beyond short-term economic gain. Today’s politicians simply can’t see farther than the next election, which they know will be mostly decided by the proverbial bottom line.

It doesn’t matter to them that every million earned from building up the Russian war machine will then take a billion to counteract. The billions will have to be paid later, but today’s millions may well pave their way to power.

This is what I call totalitarian economics, approaching politics strictly ab oeconomia. The same arguments are applied to every major political development, including Brexit.

Politicians don’t realise that such cynical amorality fails even on those puny terms. Nurturing a monster necessitates making sure he doesn’t devour you first, and there’s a cost attached, in lives, liberties – and money.

Morality pays, amorality destroys. Alas, this simple law of nature is beyond our politicians’ understanding.

2 thoughts on “US, as in USSR”

  1. Interesting.

    Is this all documented somewhere? I have read a bit of Soviet history and never heard of it before.

    Solzhenitsyn tells us that Americans were very rare (though not unheard-of) in the Gulag, though it’s true he himself didn’t land there until well into the war.

    A few links, perhaps?

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