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Soviet Foreign Policy Factionalism Under Stalin?: A Case Study of the Inevitability of War Controversy

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There has been a great deal of controversy among Western scholars concerning the direction of Soviet foreign policy in the final years and months of Stalin's rule.1 One of the crucial questions at issue is whether or not there were significant divisions of opinion within the Politburo over foreign policy matters. This article attempts to explore this particular question through an examination of a doctrinal controversy that surfaced during Stalin's last years. In one of his most famous works, Imperialism: The Highest State of Capitalism, Lenin argued that war was an inevitable concomitant of the capitalist system. He contended that the unending struggle for markets meant that periodic wars among the capitalist powers were unavoidable and inevitable.2 Stalin adhered to this view throughout his long reign, and it was not until three years after Stalin's death, in Khruschchev's speech to the Twentieth Party Congress, that it was finally revised. Yet despite Stalin's strict adherence to the Leninist analysis of imperialism, and despite the harsh discipline that characterized his rule, there is evidence that the official interpretation was being publicly questioned even while Stalin was still alive. Given the nature of esoteric communication in the Soviet Union,and the close connection between doctrinal and policy debates, an examination of the controversy concerning the inevitability of war can provide important evidence having a direct bearing upon our understanding of this period.3

Affiliations: 1: (The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada


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